Overview and Scrutiny 5 January 2016

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Restrictive covenants, Crossrail 2 and green belt planning issues were among the items discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Epping Forest District Council on 5 January 2016.

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College covenants lifted

A Cabinet decision to support Epping Forest College’s plans to redevelop land in Loughton was upheld by councillors following a call-in of the original decision. Portfolio Holder John Philip explained the reasons behind the request by the college to the council. It now opens the possibility of residential and leisure development on land previously restricted to educational use only.

In supporting the request, councillors heard that money received from residential development would be ploughed into the educational facilities in Borders Lane as well as a new leisure complex open to local residents and students.

Council consulted on Chelmsford Green Belt plans

District councillors received a report on Chelmsford City Council’s Local Plan consultation with neighbouring councils. Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted the latest stages in the Chelmsford plan including, the Green Belt, provision for Travellers and Gypsies and ideas for a western by-pass of Chelmsford.

Crossrail 2

Councillors received the latest update on Crossrail 2. The new railway may not cross the boundaries of Epping Forest District but it could still have a big impact on local residents. Decisions on the route of the new line beyond Broxbourne to Harlow or Hertford have yet to be made. Cheshunt and Broxbourne (close to Waltham Abbey and Nazeing) could locate marshalling or depot facilities.

The impact on road traffic flows close to the district boundary with Hertfordshire could be significant, especially around Roydon, where a level crossing is located. Councillors will continue to monitor and comment on the plans as they evolve.

 

Cabinet 11 January 2016

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Epping Forest Shopping Park, North Essex Parking Partnership, trainee planning officers and aerial cameras were discussed at Cabinet on Monday 11 January 2016.

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Epping Forest Shopping Park 

A £2 million highway works contract associated with improvements to the junction of Chigwell Lane and Langston Road, Loughton was approved by Cabinet at Epping Forest District Council on Monday 11 January 2016.

Councillors approved the tender of £2,070,029 from Walker Construction (UK) Ltd for road works relating to the development of the Epping Forest Shopping Park, due to open at Easter 2017.

Pay and display car parks

The management of Epping Forest District Council’s off-street Pay and Display car parks came under the spotlight at Cabinet. A report by RTA Associates suggested the council could get better value for money if it withdrew from its current management arrangement with the North Essex Parking Partnership (NEPP).

Councillors agreed the principle of giving the NEPP 12 months notice during which time councillors will be able to choose between another contractor and in-house operation by council staff. Portfolio Holder Councillor Gary Waller said that further reports would come to Cabinet. Savings could range from £31,000 up to £113,000 depending on detailed evaluation of the alternative options.

Planning

Cabinet approved budget provision of £90,000 over 2 years to cover the legal costs awarded against the council at planning appeals. Councillors also supported funding proposals for 2 new trainee Planning Officers and a trainee Contaminated Land Officer to be paid from planning income received during 2015/2016.

Aerial cameras

2 aerial cameras are to be bought by Epping Forest District Council from its special ‘Invest to Save’ budget. The cameras and associated training will enable the council to carry out its own photographic surveys. Uses as diverse as planning enforcement, housing repairs, and land drainage, surveys are expected to benefit from the equipment costing £3,500 plus £1,500 for training and software expenses.

 

Waste and recycling contract reviewed

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The Neighbourhoods and Communities Select Committee met on Thursday 17 December to review the changes made to the district’s waste and recycling service in May of this year.

New dustcarts

Introducing the main item, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Neighbourhoods Derek Macnab confirmed that, despite extensive local publicity, few public questions had been received, with only two members of the public in the Council Chamber. Major improvements to the service were believed to account for this.

Highlighting issues 

Waste and Recycling Consultant Len Attrill offered the first evidence to members of the committee for review, taking councillors through the thinking behind the use of Competitive Dialogue and the selection of the most economically advantageous contract during procurement.

Senior managers Roger Edwards, Peter Dickson, Les Smith and Simon Crook for the Council’s contractor Biffa Municipal attended the committee to explain what went wrong during the implementation of new arrangements during the summer months. The Council’s cabinet portfolio holder Councillor Will Breare-Hall was also available to answer questions.

Councillors cross-examined the witnesses in depth, asking about issues as diverse as the HR policies of Biffa during the contract handover, the advantages of the four day collection week, the move to a new depot, the size of the new vehicles, the composition of the rounds and the software problems. Councillor Will Breare-Hall said that with hindsight more lead-in time should have been allowed for the introduction of the change to the four day week. He would also have introduced other changes more gradually rather than all in one go.

Waste Manager David Marsh identified the lack of understanding and local knowledge transferred from old crews to new crews. Roger Edwards said that although it could be difficult to transfer knowledge, with hindsight more could be done in the future to achieve it.

Contact Centre Manager Julie Barnard said that the main problem for her staff was the number of missed collections and the repeated failure to collect missed collections once reported. Major improvements in communications between Biffa and the Council since the introduction of the new service have been achieved.

Committee Chairman, Councillor Mary Sartin focused on comments about the failure of assisted collections for residents with special requirements. Simon Crook for Biffa said that a lot of work had since been done to improve this process on behalf of the district’s more vulnerable residents.

Biffa manager Les Smith promised to look personally into problems around contamination of recycling identified by members of the public present at the meeting. Derek Macnab also summarised a list of written questions submitted by members of the public relating to the manner in which Biffa returned emptied bins to households, side-waste and waste separation.

Looking to the future

In summing up, Assistant Director Kim Durrani said that the Council had been in a difficult place but was in a much better position now. Looking to the future he said that the Council was striving with Biffa to improve recycling targets. Simon Crook for Biffa said that he was confident the service was now moving quickly towards the levels everyone would expect. Les Smith of Biffa assured Councillor Heather Brady that Biffa was well prepared for the next few weeks – Christmas – the busiest period of the year.

 

Council 15 December 2015

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Tributes to a recently deceased former councillor, an update on the refuse and recycling service, voting registration, councillors allowances and more were discussed at Council on 15 December 2015.

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Former councillor Daphne Borton

Councillors remembered former councillor Daphne Borton at the meeting of Epping Forest District Council on Tuesday 15 December 2015. Chairman of Council, Councillor Liz Webster invited fellow councillors to observe a minutes silence in memory of Daphne Borton who sat on the Council from 2002 to 2007.

Councillor Richard Bassett who succeeded Mrs Borton as ward councillor for Nazeing led tributes. Mrs Borton served the residents of Nazeing for more than 22 years on the Parish and District Councils. Councillors Richard Morgan, Caroline Pond, John Knapman and Brian Surtees gave further praise and offered sympathy for her husband Ed. Councillors also sent the good wishes to fellow councillor Stephen Murray who recent suffered a broken leg in a car accident.

Investment strategy

A series of questions by Councillors Chris Pond and Steven Neville provided Finance Portfolio Holder Syd Stavrou with the opportunity to update fellow councillors on the council’s investment strategy and training opportunities available to all councillors in the New Year. Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council updated fellow councillors about the potential devolution of services from central to local government and meetings with neighbouring councils. He assured colleagues of his intention to protect the best interests of Epping Forest District Council residents.

Refuse and recycling

Difficult decisions and timely responses back in the summer have led to a stabilised refuse and recycling contract with no further additional expenditure about £13,000 allocated at the time. Environment Portfolio Holder congratulated council staff on the successful turn-around in fortunes for the refuse and recycling service.

Planning

Planning Portfolio Holder Richard Bassett reported on recent Central Government guidance on future planning for starter homes and affordable housing as well as possible relaxation of Green Belt policy and use of Brown-Field sites.

Voting

The number of people registered to vote in Epping Forest has increased. Portfolio Holder for electoral registration Councillor Jon Philip said that the Council has achieved returns of its Household Enquiry Forms of 98.1% at 1 December 2015.

23,641 (43%) of households used online technology to confirm their registration. A further 2,800 people used the system to confirm personal changes online. This saved taxpayers money on postage and time for staff in back office processing. As a result of the canvass, the electorate will grow from 99,575 to 100,862 for this year, a gain of 1,287 people. Less than 200 non-responders from last year’s canvass will be removed from the register.

Councillors allowances

5 reports by the Cabinet covering the Housing Repairs and Maintenance Hub, Local Plan budget, Calendar of Council meetings, Capital Review and Local Council Tax Support Scheme were all agreed by Full Council.

Councillors voted to agree the report of the independent remuneration panel which sets the level of councillors allowances. Historically councillors have only given themselves 80% of the recommended allowance. This equates to a payment of £3,435 per year.

The report of the panel was presented by Mr Stephen Lye. Comparisons with other councils showed the levels of remuneration to be far lower at Epping Forest. Councillors decided the reduction of 20% on the basic allowance had become unsustainable and agreed a bid for full implementation of £4,300 subject to final approval at the setting of the council budget in February.

Councillors also agreed that responsibility for setting the level of special responsibility allowance paid to the Vice-Chairman and Chairman should be transferred to the Remuneration Panel.

 

Cabinet 3 December

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Councillors discussed many issues at the cabinet meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 3 December 2015.

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Cabinet agrees new Housing depot plan

Eighty-four members of staff are expected to relocate from Epping to North Weald following Cabinet approval of a scheme to relocate Epping Forest District Council’s housing maintenance depot. Subject to the grant of planning permission, the £3.3million Repairs and Maintenance Hub will be built on council-owned land at Blenheim Way. The transfer will free up land at the existing depot for the proposed redevelopment of St John’s Road. A decision on the Hub planning application is expected in the first half of next year.

Local Plan Budget

A combination of changes in government policy and a determination to prepare the best possible submissions to the Examination in Public persuaded councillors of the need to confirm spending of almost £1.5million (over four years up to 2018/19) to complete the adoption of the new Local Plan. Cabinet supported the need for comprehensive public engagement with residents as well as ensuring supporting evidence is as up to date and robust as possible.

Transformation

Council Leader Councillor Chris Whitbread told Cabinet colleagues that easy efficiencies had all been made and it was now time to scope out a more substantial Transformation Programme for the delivery of Epping Forest District Council services. Cabinet noted the appointment of the Council’s first Head of Transformation and the potential need to make significant investment to implement changes to service delivery.

Among the proposals coming through for better use of office accommodation was a suggestion by Councillor John Philip for councillors to give up their Members Room and share canteen space with staff. Council Chief Executive Glen Chipp agreed with suggestions about greater partnership working and use of technology to streamline services. Councillors Alan Lion, Richard Bassett and Gary Waller emphasised the importance of better customer services delivered in partnership with staff as well as co-location with other community-based organisations such as Essex Police.

Other items

Other reports approved at Cabinet included the adoption of a Council CCTV strategy and completion of extension of Epping Forest Museum. Councillor David Stallan drew attention to the inclusion of conditions for the provision of carbon monoxide alarms as part of the revised licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation.  Councillor Syd Stavrou presented the new Local Council Tax Support Scheme and the Council’s Capital Review. Other items included Youth Engagement and the Town and Village Centres Opportunities Fund.

79 homes approved by Council

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2 planning applications were decided by an extraordinary meeting of Epping Forest District Council on Monday 23 November 2015.

Proposals for the redevelopment of the Sixteen String Jack Public House in Theydon Bois and Knolly’s Nursery, Pick Hill Waltham Abbey were referred to Full Council from the District Development Management Committee.

Councillors refused the application for the demolition of Sixteen String Jack and the development of 11 residential apartments with parking and communal car parking.

The application for 79 residential dwellings of which 63 would be affordable, a children’s day nursery and a new access roundabout was approved for Knolly’s Nursery.

 

Tell us your views on the new waste contract

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Residents are being invited to take part in a review of the new domestic waste and recycling contract let by Epping Forest District Council.

Residents have the opportunity to ask questions directly to councillors, council staff, consultants and Biffa managers involved in the implementation of the new waste contract at a meeting of the Neighbourhoods and Communities Select Committee on 17 December at 7pm.

This is a great opportunity for residents to get involved in review discussions.

Waste contract review poster

Ask your question

The council are asking for written questions in advance, these will then be categorised. Questions from each category will be drawn at random to avoid repetition and the questioners will be invited to ask their questions in person.

Every question put to the council will be responded to and the answers will be posted on the council’s website. We want questions about the service rather than specific failed collections, as the purpose of this meeting is to improve on the systems already in place.

About the meeting

The meeting will be divided into 3 sections

  1. Consultant Len Attrill from White Young and Green will be fielding questions relating to procurement
  2. Roger Edwards, Managing Director of Biffa will be answering questions relating to the first 6 months of the contract
  3. Environment Portfolio Holder, Councillor Will Breare-Hall and Director of Neighbourhoods Derek MacNab will be on hand to answer questions regarding the revised 4 day week service

Your opportunity to get involved

This is your opportunity to get involved. Please forward your questions by Friday 11 December.

  • Meeting – Special Meeting of the Neighbourhoods and Communities Select Committee
  • Date – Thursday 17 December 2015
  • Time – 7pm
  • Venue – Council Chamber, Epping Forest District Council, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, CM16 4BZ

This meeting will be webcast, so if you are unable to attend you can watch it live on the council’s website at www.eppingforestdc.public-i.tv.

Submit a question

Questions must be submitted by email or in writing by 5pm Friday 11 December 2015.

We will not be taking questions over the phone.

 

#OurDay 2015

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A snapshot of 24 hours in the life of Epping Forest District Council for #OurDay 2015.

Jarvis, Karen and 14 keen cyclists set off on a 10 mile ‘Cycle For Health’ on ‪#‎OurDay‬

View photos in a slideshow by clicking on a picture and then click start slideshow.

Find out more

Find out what was tweeted

 

Cabinet 5 November

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Councillors discussed many issues at the cabinet meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 5 November 2015.

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Breaches of standing orders

Councillor Chris Whitbread set out details of breaches to standing orders in response to a public question by Mr Blanks. Responding to a supplementary question by Mr Blanks, Councillor Whitbread confirmed that the breaches of standing orders relating to cumulative orders placed with contract suppliers had been identified by council officers.

Councillor Whitbread undertook to provide further details in due course. Returning to the item later on the agenda, cabinet actions now require assistant directors to avoid similar occurrences in the future. Standing Orders are also to be reviewed.

Gracelands

Gracelands, a local company has been awarded a new 5-year contract to provide gas and heating services to council housing tenants. Gracelands came in the with the lowest bid of just under £400,000 per year. Previous work by Gracelands has provided some of the highest levels of tenant satisfaction for Epping Forest District Council.

Civil penalties

Councillors supported the introduction of civil penalties for people giving false information when making Council Tax and Housing Benefit claims. The penalties of £70 for Council Tax and £50 for Housing Benefit cheats can also be applied to people who deliberately withhold information when their circumstances change. Anyone providing false information would also have to pay back any overpayment of Benefits.

Bus shelters

The cleaning and refurbishment of 60 local bus shelters has been awarded to Clear Channel for a further 4 years. The contract was awarded at no cost to the council. Maintenance costs to Clear Channel will be met from revenue raised through advertising.

Payment kiosks

Payment kiosks are to replace the staffed Epping cashier office. Residents increasingly make payments to the council by direct debit, phone and online with a consequent decline in cash payments. The council successfully implemented a payment kiosk alternative in Waltham Abbey several years ago with significant ongoing savings. Implementation of a similar plan in Epping is expected to save more than £20,000 a year.

Epping Forest College redevelopment

Councillors agreed to release restrictive covenants on land owned by Epping Forest College. Redevelopment of the land for housing will provide a proportion of new affordable housing within Loughton. Profits from the development will be used by the College to develop new educational facilities.

Epping Forest Shopping Park

The Epping Forest Shopping Park project remains on schedule. Asset Management Portfolio Holder Councillor Ann Grigg updated cabinet with latest progress on retail tenants, highway works and relocation of council services to Oakwood Hill.

 

Full Council meets

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Full Council Meet Tuesday 3rd November to continue discussion with all members and cabinet.

Democracy live


 

Chairman pays tribute to Chris Overend

Councillors observed a minute’s silence at the meeting of Epping Forest District Council on Tuesday 3 November. The Council was united in mourning the sudden and unexpected death of Chris Overend over the weekend.

Chris Overend worked for the Council for more than 25 years. He was one of the most popular and well-known members of staff. He was also well known within the local community for his role in the administration of grant aid. A very subdued Council Chamber heard tributes led by Chairman Councillor Liz Webster for the Council and Director of Communities Alan Hall for the staff. Councillors, Helen Kane, Stephen Murray, Janet Whitehouse, Chris Whitbread and Caroline Pond all spoke with great affection and sadness.

Waste and recycling

Council business continued with a brief response by Environment Portfolio Holder Councillor Will Breare-Hall on the improvements to the Waste and Recycling service. Prompted by the question from Councillor Brian Surtees, Council Leader Councillor Chris Whitbread echoed the positive feedback on the service while assuring fellow councillors and residents that the Council was not complacent about maintaining the improved service.

Council growth

Councillor Whitbread gave further updates on meetings covering economic growth in the Cambridge Stansted London corridor, the Epping Forest Youth Council, Essex-wide discussion about the possible devolution of central government services and the ongoing workshops attended by District, Town and Parish councillors on the Local Plan. Planning Portfolio Holder Councillor Richard Bassett added a request for councillors to attend further workshops including the impact of an ageing population on the Local Plan.

Questions

Further questions to members of the Cabinet included the decision of Essex Police to withdraw support for the Remembrance Day parades this year, the possibility of charging points for electric cars, consultation on council-owned garage sites earmarked for council housing and the future of the Royal Gunpowder Mills.

Councillors expressed some concerns about the future direction of forest management by the Corporation of London. Responding to a question by Councillor Stephen Murray, Council Leader Chris Whitbread confirmed the importance of the forest to all residents. Councillor Syd Stavrou provided additional feedback on recent meetings to discuss proposed changes to public access by the Corporation.

Council Leader Chris Whitbread made a ‘call to arms’ to fellow councillors to attend the next meeting of the Local Councils Liaison Committee where Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston is due to speak. Councillors debated a motion tabled by Councillor Jon Whitehouse expressing concern at recent cuts to local Essex Police services. Closure of all but one local police station, the closure of all public counters within the district, the loss of PCSOs and many other associated concerns were voiced. With the adoption of amendments proposed by Councillor Gary Waller councillors agreed the motion.