Visitors to Epping Forest District Council’s Information Centres in Loughton and Waltham Abbey will find new arrangements in place. Under the terms of a new arrangement with Essex County Council, information about the District Council will be made available via libraries in Waltham Abbey, Loughton, Chipping Ongar and Buckhurst Hill.
The new arrangement is set to benefit residents and both councils. Access to information about Epping Forest District Council will become more widely available with later opening on week-nights and access on Saturdays. The District Council will also make savings on accommodation and staff costs.
Essex County Council will receive a regular income for providing the service as well as a potential increase in residents visiting and making use of other core library services.
The District Council will continue to manage its own main information and reception desk at the Civic Offices in Epping. Cash payments to Epping Forest District Council at Waltham Abbey Town Hall are expected to transfer to Waltham Abbey Library later in the year following the installation of a special kiosk.
Councillor Hal Ulkun, Support Services Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: “I am delighted to announce this new partnership with Essex County Council. Money is tight for everyone and it makes great financial sense for both Epping Forest District and Essex County Council to co-operate by reducing costs and providing services more efficiently together. Even more importantly, people rely more than ever on access to council services during tough economic times. Working together we can enhance services in Ongar and Buckhurst Hill, too.”
Library staff received training in December. They will be able to act as an advice and signposting service for residents to Epping Forest District Council services. Residents will also be able to access District Council services via library-based computers with the assistance of library staff and contact staff at the main District Council offices via dedicated phones in each of the four libraries.
Other local District Council services such as the Broadway Housing Office and Limes Farm Community Hall in Chigwell will continue to provide specialist services as normal.
Councillor Ulkun added: “With modern technology we can use electronic links, backed up by good old-fashioned methods such as the District Council ‘Messenger’ collecting and delivering post between the District in Epping and the libraries in Loughton, Waltham Abbey, Ongar and Buckhurst Hill. Library staff are already experts in searching and providing information for residents. Many of our older and more vulnerable residents are especially reliant on the information service and I am very confident the libraries will continue the fine traditions of service previously provided by our own staff.”
County Councillor Jeremy Lucas Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Environment and Culture said: “I am very pleased to add Epping Forest District Council to the growing list of partners who are sharing space in our libraries for the benefit of their local community. Libraries should remain the hub of communities and Essex County Council is always keen to discuss ways of working with partners to find savings while improving services to our residents.”