Capital Strategy Approved by Council

Written on . Posted in Councillors, Democracy, Meetings, Your council

The capital strategy for 2009 to 2014, recycling enhancement, Epping Town Council quality status were on the agenda at the meeting of full Council on Tuesday 22 December 2009.

 

Watch webcast of Council meeting on 22 December 2009

Capital Strategy Approved

Meeting housing need has been made top priority of Epping Forest District Council. Councillors endorsed the new priority as part of the adoption of the new Capital Strategy for 2009 to 2014 at the meeting of the Council on 22 December 2009.

Former Chief Executive – Tony Hackman

Councillors held a minute`s silence at the meeting of Epping Forest District Council in memory of former Chief Executive, Tony Hackman. Councillor Richard Morgan, represented the Council at the service.

Enhancement to Recycling Service

In response to a question from Councillor Spencer, Councillor Mary Sartin, Environment Portfolio Holder announced that discussion were ongoing to make Kerb-side recycling caddies available on request in additional to green lid wheelie bins for any residents who wished to use a combination of both. Councillor Sartin also confirmed that the clear recycling sacks currently available will be superseded by a stronger version. Councillors were reminded that residents could also use their own plastic bags for recycling, paper, cans and plastic bottles.

Epping Town Council Quality Status

Councillor John Buchanan of the Association of Essex Councils and Councillor Penny Smith, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council made a presentation to Epping Town Council for re-accreditation of its Quality Parish Council status. Councillor Buchannan congratulated Councillor Janet Hedges, Mayor of Epping Town Council, on receiving the award, listing the tough criteria a town council must meet to receive Quality Status.

Councillor Janet Hedges receives the award from Councillor John Buchanan and Councillor Penny Smith

Picture caption – Councillor Janet Hedges (centre) receives the re-accreditation of Quality Council Status on behalf of Epping Town Council from Councillor John Buchanan of the Association of Essex Councils and Councillor Penny Smith, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council at the meeting of the District on 22 December 2009.

Chairman`s Announcements

Councillor Mrs Penny Smith, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council expressed her deep pride in the District. Following recent invitations to a range of community events she was very proud to see the huge amount of voluntary work carried out by many people within the community, including those sharing Christmas with people who would otherwise be alone.

The Chairman`s Charity for 2009/10 is the Alzheimer`s Society. Councillor Smith announces that her next fund-raising event would be a charity quiz to be held at Theydon Bois Village Hall on Friday 19 February 2010.

Council Olympic Champion

A local teacher and marathon runner has been selected by councillors as Epping Forest District Council`s Olympic Champion. Councillor Stephen Murray will lead the Council`s efforts to maximise the benefits of the London Olympic Games 2012 for residents and local business. His responsibilities will including the White Water Canoe Centre in the Lee Valley Park bordering Waltham Abbey.

No Gypsy and Traveller Discussion at Council Tonight

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Councillors, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Leader, Meetings, Your council

The Council is unable to consider the agenda item concerning the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document at the Council meeting tonight. This is following the postponement of last night’s Cabinet meeting, on Monday 21 December 2009, due to severe weather conditions.

Agreement has been given by the Leader of the Council to hold the rescheduled Cabinet meeting on Monday 4 January 2010. An extraordinary meeting of the Council will probably take place on Tuesday 19 January 2010, subject to the agreement of the Chairman of the Council.

Cabinet Rejects Minerals Development Document

Written on . Posted in Leader, Meetings, Your council

Minerals development, the Youth Council, Limes Farm Hall and others were all discussed at cabinet on Monday 16 November 2009.

Watch the webcast

Cabinet meeting on 16 November 2009

Minerals Development Document

District Councillors say plans to extract gravel from Shellow Cross in Willingale and Patch Park Farm in Abridge are unsuitable. Members of Epping Forest District Council`s Cabinet agreed at their meeting on 16 November to respond to the consultation by Essex County Council that sand and gravel extraction at the two sites was inappropriate.

Impact on the Green Belt, the local landscape and local road network made the sites unacceptable to Councillors. They also objected due to the potential risk of flooding on both sites and the presence of a high pressure gas main in close proximity to the Abridge site.

The District Council response will contribute towards the consultation carried out by Essex County Council in the Minerals Development Document.

Youth Council

Councillor Richard Morgan asked the Cabinet to support recommendations by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to support a bid for further funding of the Epping Forest Youth Council. Councillor Morgan also drew attention to the high levels of resident satisfaction of living in the district as outlined in the Place Survey conducted earlier in the year.

Limes Farm Hall

Cabinet approved a recommendation to seek planning permission and invitations to tender for improvements and an extension to Limes Farm Hall. Should the project go forward, the Council intends to provide extra space at the hall in Chigwell to accommodate Housing and Benefits services, as well as staff employed in Safer Communities work by the District Council and Essex Police. A children`s centre and health clinic are also proposed, as well as dedicated youth space.

Big Lottery funding is being sought in support of the project, along with joint funding by a range of partners led by the District Council. In the meantime, Councillors agreed to make a funding bid of £27,000 in next year`s budget to keep the hall going until development could proceed.

Cutting Energy Costs

Money spent to improve the energy efficiency of the District Council offices in Epping will help to cut fuel costs. With interest rates at record low levels, Councillors heard that investing in energy efficiency could prove better value for money than putting money in the bank. The Civic Offices in Epping currently have a poor energy rating. Measures such as double glazing and better heating systems should cut the Council`s carbon footprint and save money.

Bringing Empty Homes Back Into Use

People on the Council`s Housing Register may be able to benefit from an initiative to bring empty properties back into use. Six hundred private properties in the district have been empty for a year or more. Cabinet agreed to add a funding bid for a Technical Officer to encourage people to bring those properties back into use.

The new post would be part of a review of the Council`s Private Sector Housing Team also aimed at improving the inspection rate for licensed park home sites and would be for an initial period of three years.

Record Recycling and Fire Safety Discussed at Council

Written on . Posted in Crime and safety, Democracy, Meetings, Recycling and waste, Your council, Your home

Increased recycling, council housing fire safety in communal areas, accord to support local businesses and cutting carbon emissions were all on the agenda at the meeting of Full Council on 3 November 2009.

Record Recycling

Councillor Diana Collins, Leader of Epping Forest District Council, presented a short summary of the latest increase in recycling. Figures for the first three weeks of the new domestic recycling services have exceeded expectations with residents boosting monthly levels to around 60 per cent. Should this trend continue, recycling levels for the year could reach 47 per cent with subsequent years potentially reaching 50 per cent.

Equally encouraging has been the 28 per cent reduction in the amount of rubbish sent to landfill. In the written report to Council, Environment Portfolio Holder Councillor Mary Sartin thanked residents for embracing the new recycling services so wholeheartedly.

Fire Precautions – Communal Areas of Council Flats

A petition by tenants of Torrington Drive, Loughton is to be considered by Members of the Housing Scrutiny Panel. Councillor David Stallan, Housing Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council, told the meeting of Full Council on 3 November that he would decide what response to make after receiving the Panel`s views.

Torrington Drive tenants submitted the petition in response to letters issued by the Council in relation to Health and Safety in communal areas of flats. The Council has asked tenants to ensure they do not leave personal items in communal areas which could obstruct their escape in an emergency. Although the District Council carries out regular routine inspections, the latest request comes soon after a Ministerial report into the Camberwell fire in London earlier this year in which six tenants died.

Councillor Stallan said: The health and safety of our tenants is our top priority. None of us would do anything to compromise the safety of our tenants. However, I have received feedback from several Councillors and tenants who want us to look at the policy in detail and therefore informed the Council of my intention to ask the Housing Panel to look at the issue. The Panel should be able to report back to me with recommendations in the next month or two. In the meantime, we have an obligation to ensure we do all we can to keep escape routes clear and will continue to take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of our tenants.

Small Business Accord

The Chairman of the Essex Federation of Small Businesses has signed an accord with Epping Forest District Council to support local commerce. Council Chairman Councillor Penny Smith and Business Champion Councillor Chris Whitbread signed the accord on behalf of the Council.

Councillors then went on to support motions asking the Government to review its actions in raising the National Non-Domestic Business Rate locally. They called upon the Government to reduce the multiplier to the greatest possible extent and at least 20 per cent, increase transitional relief so that no business sees its bill increase by more than 2.5 per cent between the current and the new financial years and doubling the limit that restricts entitlement to small business rate relief.

Councillors also supported the case of Buckhurst Hill businesses which had been particularly affected by the latest business rate increases. Members voted to invite the District Valuation Officer to explain his actions to Overview and Scrutiny.

10:10 – Cutting the Council`s Carbon Emissions

Councillors agreed steps to cut carbon emissions by 10 per cent by 2010. The Council supported the 10:10 campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to encourage other individuals, businesses and organisations to do likewise.

 

New Youth Councillors Welcomed

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Community, Councillors, Democracy, Leader, Meetings, Young people, Your community, Your council

The newly-elected Epping Forest Youth Council has been formally welcomed. On Monday 19 October 2009, a special event was held at the Civic offices, Epping to introduce the elected Youth Councillors to each other and to the current District Councillors.

The new Councillors were asked to say why they wanted to join the Youth Council and here’s what they had to say …

23 new youth councillors with Council representatives

Chairman of Epping Forest District Council Councillor Penny Smith made a speech to welcome and congratulate the new Youth Councillors on their successful election campaigns. She said: I recommend joining in as much as you can. I hope very much you will take great interest learning about how local democracy actually happens.

Councillor Smith went on to say: Enjoy taking part – your experiences over the next two years will certainly improve the quality of your own personal development as you convene in this Chamber.

Councillor Penny Smith talks with Harrison Jardine and Haris DuherichCouncillor Penny Smith with new youth councillor Abigail Endean

Councillor Penny Smith shows Duncan Haslam and Connor Lattimer The Forester

In the last few months The Community Development Team and the Democratic Services Team from the District Council have supported five schools across the district to organise elections. The number of seats on the Youth Council has been increased from 17 to 23.

The 23 Epping Forest Youth Councillors

Many of the Council`s Portfolio Holders and Senior Officers were also in attendance at the welcome evening. Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Wellbeing Councillor Brian Rolfe said: The Youth Council has developed a number of successful projects over the last two years and has become a platform in which young people across the district can voice their opinions on issues important to them. I and the other Councillors look forward to working alongside the new Youth Council and seeing what can be achieved in the next two years.

Cabinet 20 April 2009

Written on . Posted in Democracy, Leader, Meetings, Your council

A reduction in the number of gypsy and traveller pitches, recovery of money from the collapsed Icelandic Banks and changes to the recycling service were all on the cabinet agenda for Monday 20 April 2009.

Watch the webcastView webcast of cabinet meeting on 20 April 2009 (opens in a new window)

Gypsy and Traveller Consultation

Epping Forest District Council is telling the Government that not more than 20 additional gypsy and traveller pitches should be allocated to the District. Councillor Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder told the Cabinet that the Government had already reduced the number of pitches provisionally allocated to the District from 49 to 34. However, the Cabinet endorsed her recommendation that the Council should argue for further reductions.

Later in the meeting Councillor Anne Grigg gave further feedback to Cabinet on gypsy and traveller site consultation. Potential sites are to be categorised depending on apparent suitability. Cabinet also noted a sustainability appraisal by Essex County Council will be published for a six week public consultation.

The scale of the gypsy and traveller consultation work has created extra work for staff leading to delays in the Core Strategy of the Local Development Framework. Cabinet considered future staffing requirements. Members felt that the creation of a temporary Senior Planning Officer post within the Forward Planning section would better serve the needs of the Council rather than continue to employ a consultant.

Icelandic Bank

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Portfolio Holder with responsibility for Finance and Performance Management presented details on the Annual Report of the Executive for 2008/9. Director of Finance, Bob Palmer was invited to provide an update on recovery of money from the collapsed Heritable Bank. Mr Palmer said that the Administrators were indicating that councils would receive between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of money deposited with Heritable.

Grant Aid

Grant Aid ranging from a few hundred pounds to many thousands is made by Epping Forest District Council each year. The Cabinet approved changes to the way the council makes grants to community Groups. Councillor Syd Stavrou, Community Well-being Portfolio Holder outlined the adoption of a `score-card` system for assessing grants and restrictions on applications from groups outside the district. The Council will positively welcome applications from local groups that have never previously applied.

Bobbingworth Tip

Councillor Mary Sartin, Environmental Protection Portfolio Holder reported on remaining work to the former Bobbingworth Tip near Moreton. The former landfill site is due to open to the public as a wild flower meadow and park in the near future.

Flood Alleviation

Flood Alleviation works have been completed under budget. Councillor Richard Bassett, Civil Engineering and Maintenance Portfolio Holder reported on the return of £100,000 to the council`s coffers.

Climate Change

The Nottingham Declaration signed by Epping Forest District Council commits councils to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change. A key requirement is the production of a Climate Change Strategy. Cabinet supported the adoption of the draft strategy.

Disabled Adaptations

Housing Portfolio Holder, Councillor David Stallan received Cabinet support for proposed re-allocation of £200,000 from the Major Repairs Reserve to clear a back-log of outstanding disabled adaptations. The recommendations will be referred to Full Council.

New Refuse and Recycling Service

The revised Domestic Refuse and Recycling service will start on 7 September 2009. Cabinet agreed proposals by Councillor Mary Sartin for the procurement process of wheeled bins, food waste containers and five new refuse collection vehicles.

Grounds Maintenance

Cabinet also agreed to make a recommendation to Full Council for arrangements to buy six new Ford Transit vehicles for the Grounds Maintenance Section.

News from the Cabinet

Written on . Posted in Community, Democracy, Leader, Meetings, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home

News from the Cabinet meeting held on 9 March 2009.

Agenda and decisions for Cabinet meeting on 9 March 2009
View webcast of Cabinet meeting on 9 March 2009 (opens in a new window)

The Meadows – Legal Costs

Legal costs of £7,250 awarded against Epping Forest District Council reminded Councillors of the risk of swift action to prevent unauthorised traveller encampments. Members of the Council`s Cabinet agreed to make the payment after the Council sought an injunction to prevent travellers moving on to The Meadows, land south of Waltham Road, Nazeing last October.

The site, an overgrown field was subject to clearance, leading local residents and the Council to suspect that the work was in preparation for use by travellers. Council Officers faced a dilemma of taking swift action based on incomplete information or potentially waiting too long for more information and being unable to prevent a potential incursion.

Councillor Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: We are disappointed with the Judge`s decision to award costs against us. I think there was significant cause for us to be concerned. Residents would not have thanked us, had we waited until it was too late to take effective action. Despite the financial risk, faced with the same circumstances in the future, I think most of our residents would want us to act decisively again.

Relaxation of Shared Ownership Rules

The economic downturn has led to a reduction in demand for new shared ownership housing. Members of the Cabinet agreed proposals to relax the requirement for shared ownership elements to new social housing schemes, providing greater flexibility to housing associations for the development of social rented housing or the use of a ` Rent Now – Buy Later ` scheme where tenants pay an intermediate rent of around 80 per cent of market rent until they can afford to buy a share of the property. Cabinet Members agreed to keep the policy under six monthly review.

Home Ownership Grants

The Council`s own pilot home ownership grants scheme has been very successful and is to be extended. Five families have so far used or are taking up the offer of £34,000 grants to move out of a Council house in order to buy private property. Council properties vacated through the scheme can be re-let to other families or individuals on the Council`s Housing Register in need of affordable rented housing. The Cabinet agreed the provision of five additional grants for 2009/10.

Local Strategic Partnership Meeting

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Community, Consultation, Countrycare, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Housing, Meetings, Our countryside, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

The co-ordinating group of local service organisations, Epping Forest Local Strategic Partnership Board welcomed its new Manager, John Houston on Thursday 26 February 2009. John will work for the whole group which includes local Councils, Essex County Council, West Essex PCT, Epping Forest College and Essex Police. Technically he is employed by Epping Forest District Council with funding support from the major statutory partners.

Agenda for Local Strategic Partnership Board meeting on 26 February 2009

Traveller and Gypsy Site Provision Consultation

Following introductions, the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) Chairperson, Councillor Diana Collins of Epping Forest District Council moved to the first main agenda item, public consultation on future provision of sites for travellers and gypsies. The District Council`s Director of Planning and Economic Development, John Preston gave an outline of the consultation, one of the biggest undertaken by the Council. He explained how the Council would need to analyse the large number of responses and take the process forward. He also informed the LSP of the Planning Inspector`s recommendation to reduce the number of extra pitches from 49 to 39.

John Houston noted the role of the LSP to support disadvantaged people and acknowledged local concerns about the process. He invited the LSP to go through a discussion paper prepared on behalf of its members, to be submitted to the District Council as part of the consultation process. The LSP noted that around 90 pitches already existed in the District. Members of the group considered a number of issues in their discussion, including housing provision, health and fear of crime issues. It was felt that it was important for the LSP to be clear in terms of treating everyone equally and fairly. The group acknowledged the strength of local feeling.

`Credit Crunch` Response

Business input is needed for a co-ordinated response to the Credit Crunch, members of the LSP Board agreed. A Task and Finish Panel of Members will meet to develop ways in which Government Agencies and business might work together to stimulate and support the local economy.

Project Funding

The Essex Partnership has now confirmed that the bids from Epping Forest have been successful and an allocation of £453,855 has been made to support the schemes the Board has endorsed. The LSP Board will be able to move forward on all the proposals.

Projects will include an information guide on Home Safety, a supported volunteering project including opportunities that are tailored to meet personal development needs and pathways to work. People with learning difficulties will benefit from access to the Arts.

Further projects will help the emotional health and wellbeing of children, support for parents and holiday and after-school drop-in sessions for teenagers. Funding will help support vulnerable parents and carers in isolated rural communities. Investment in local CCTV will help to combat crime and anti-social behaviour.

Smoking, Heart Disease, Obesity

Catherine O`Connell of West Essex Primary Care Trust outlined priorities for preventing early deaths in Epping Forest District. Issues of major concern include reducing smoking, combating heart disease and tackling childhood obesity which can lead to health problems in later life. Among other concerns for the area`s children was a lower than hoped for take up of the MMR vaccine. Instances of measles are increasing.

Local hospitals have made huge improvements in patient safety. MRSA infections in local hospitals are now lower than in many other areas.

Life expectancy of the population is improving overall and work is therefore focusing on narrowing the gap between those groups at the lower end of the life expectancy range and the top.

Catherine O`Connell was also proud of the PCT record in providing NHS dentists to any local resident who now needs one. Residents can be referred to their nearest available local dentist through just one phone call.

Housing Strategy

Epping Forest District Council`s Director of Housing, Alan Hall, presented a briefing on the latest developments of the Local Authority Draft Housing Strategy. Numbers and location of affordable housing, balancing urban and rural demand, meeting special needs and ensuring homes meet a high quality standard are enshrined in the latest draft.

More than 7,000 households are not in suitable housing while 1,300 families are assessed as in `housing need`. More families are listed on the Housing Register. Property prices are 11 times average earnings. Up to 2021 there is projected district-wide shortfall of 5,700 affordable homes. Building new affordable homes is closely associated with private sector development. The current slow-down in the commercial new-build market is therefore affecting the number of new-build affordable homes being developed.

Young people are moving out of the district due to high property prices and the population profile is of an increasingly ageing population.

Forty-five actions are listed in the draft plan to address housing issues. Among these actions are facilitating 200 affordable new homes by 2010. Ongoing work with local residents continues to prevent people becoming homeless. The Council will work with a Housing Association to provide a Mortgage Rescue Scheme. All Council homes are on course to achieve the ` Decent Homes ` standard by 2010.

Cabinet 5 February 2009

Written on . Posted in Community, Consultation, Council tax, Councillors, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Housing, Meetings, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

A Council Tax increase of 2.5 per cent is being recommended by Cabinet for adoption at the next full meeting of Epping Forest District Council. Members of the Cabinet also agreed a further extension of the ongoing public consultation on future provision of sites for Gypsies and Travellers.

Watch the webcastView webcast of Cabinet meeting on 5 February 2009 (opens in a new window)

Budget

Against a very difficult national economic backdrop, Epping Forest District Council is set to achieve a low Council Tax precept increase of 2.5 per cent. For a family in an average Band D property, it means an increase of just £3.60 in the District Council precept for the entire year, or less than seven pence per week. It is likely to be one of the lowest Council Tax precepts set in Essex.

This comes despite reductions in income from investments, a very low financial settlement increase from Central Government of just £46,000, no increase in car parking charges and lower income from fees and charges. Drawing on reserves and finding compensatory savings of £300,000 per year, the Cabinet is charting a medium term strategy designed to bring the budget back into balance whilst assisting local businesses and residents through the forecast economic turndown.

Councillors re-iterated recent commitments to make faster payments for services provided by local businesses, an increase in rental loans to homeless people and introduction of a mortgage rescue scheme in partnership with the Citizens` Advice Bureau and Moat Housing Association.

The District Council will re-allocate money from the defunct Lighthouse Furniture Project in Epping Forest to Voluntary Action Epping Forest (VAEF). If successful in bidding for the tenancy of 15 Market Square, Waltham Abbey, VAEF will use District Council funding to support a new Furniture Exchange Scheme designed to help people on lower incomes who need good second-hand furniture and are unable to afford normal High Street prices. Long-term, the project aims to become self-financing.

Major investment in the domestic waste and recycling service is included within the budget. Councillors previously agreed to implement the favoured option of residents in recent public consultation. Enhancements to the service will see extension of recycling to include kitchen waste, collected weekly with garden refuse in a new wheelie bin.

Traveller and Gypsy Consultation

Rescheduled training, originally planned for late 2008 but actually received in January prompted Members to agree a further extension to the consultation period on traveller and gypsy site provision. The extension to 20 February will give local residents an additional two weeks in which to submit their views.

Customer Transformation

In a far-reaching report, Members of the Cabinet considered proposals for changing the way Epping Forest District Council serves its residents. Councillor Brian Rolfe Chairman of the Customer Transformation Task and Finish Panel outlined improvements the Council could make in how it deals with the public. The report looks directly at face to face contact, contact by phone and through other channels such as The Forester magazine and website.

Recognising current financial constraints, Councillor Mitchell Cohen proposed a temporary increase in resources to the Council website, engaging a second member of staff to support the website for a fixed three-year term.

Councillor Diana Collins Leader of the Council congratulated Councillor Rolfe on the Panel report and supported the principles. She asked Councillor Rolfe for a further report providing guidance to Cabinet on the priorities of the Panel.

Severe Weather Update – 3 February

Written on . Posted in Emergencies, Meetings, Recycling and waste, Your council, Your home

Most Epping Forest District Council services are returning to normal after the heavy snow that brought many roads to a standstill on Monday. However, the severe weather is continuing to affect some services.

Refuse and recycling collections are suspended for a second day due to ice on many residential roads. Some disposal sites are also closed. Special collections have also been cancelled and residents will be notified of new arrangements.

A revised domestic refuse and recycling schedule will be published later today.

Today`s scheduled evening meetings of the Epping Forest District Youth Council and District Development Control Committee are cancelled. Revised dates are:

Youth Council Tuesday 10 February at 7.30pm.

District Development Control Committee a new meeting date will be published in due course

A number of daytime meetings may also be disrupted. Anyone visiting the Council today is advised to phone first and check that your meeting is going ahead.

Sports and Leisure Centres operated for the Council by SLM (Sports and Leisure Management Limited) are open although residents are again advised to phone first and check before attending special classes or activities. `All Angels` and `All Saints` Urban Street Dance classes at St Michael and All Angel’s Church Hall, Roding Road, Loughton, IG10 3EJ “ scheduled for 5:30pm and 6:30pm have been cancelled.

Aviation is suspended at North Weald Airfield. Motoring activities have also been suspended due to the icy conditions. However, other commercial activities are unaffected and the Airfield is open to tenants and those delivering to their premises.

Council Offices are open.