Cabinet Spotlight on Child Protection

Written on . Posted in Community, Crime and safety, Leader, Meetings, Residents, Young people, Your community, Your council

The Cabinet meeting that took place on 8 March 2010 saw child protection proposals come under the spotlight as well as discussion on recycling and health.

Watch the webcastView the webcast of the Cabinet Meeting 8 March 2010

District Council seeks reassurance on Child Protection

Councillor Brian Rolfe, Leisure and Wellbeing Portfolio Holder introduced Mr Roger Bullen of Essex County Council to present a report on the Essex Children`s Trust Memorandum of Agreement.

Councillor Mitch Cohen questioned Mr Bullen closely on the purposes of the Memorandum. He explored the levels of independence Epping Forest District Council would retain to control its own policies and procedures in relation to children`s services.
Mr Bullen sought to reassure Councillors that the Memorandum would underpin the statutory obligations of the Essex Children`s Trust, rather than form an overarching influence.

Councillor Lesley Wagland, the Council`s elected representative on the West Essex Children`s Trust Board also expressed concerns. She drew comparison with Epping Forest District Council`s own policies and procedures particularly in relation to Safeguarding, which have been independently identified as `Best Practice`. Councillor Wagland felt that from a legal perspective, the Memorandum of Agreement as written was not specific enough in terms of expectations or requirements, leaving room for different interpretations by the various partners.

Councillor Ann Haigh, Chairman of the previous Children and Young People`s Strategic Partnership (CYPSP) echoed many of Councillor Wagland`s concerns and emphasised the need to place the safeguarding of children first. Councillor Haigh also drew attention to the needs of smaller areas within the context of the overall requirements of West Essex. Councillor Haigh felt the Memorandum was premature and supported Councillor Wagland`s call not to support the document as currently worded.

Councillor Chris Whitbread suggested the document should not be signed at this time. Rather he felt that the good practice identified by independent audit at Epping Forest District Council should be examined more closely by Overview and Scrutiny to see how it might be taken forward. In the meantime, the District Council would assure Essex County Council that it would meet its legislative requirements and continue to work in partnership, while seeking assurances from Essex County Council towards enhancements of children`s services across the County.

Free recycling for schools, halls and places of worship

Free recycling services are to be extended to schools, village halls and religious services at places of worship. Epping Forest District Council`s Cabinet agreed to support the extension of free recycling across the district, mirroring similar services already available on household recycling collections from residents. Councillor Mary Sartin, Environment Portfolio Holder recommended the report to Cabinet.

Commercial businesses continue to be liable for charges for the collection of `trade waste`.

Health Service Consultation

Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens reported to members on the latest North East London health service consultation. He outlined a number of concerns expressed at Overview and Scrutiny Committee including funding and mental health services. Members were also unhappy at the uneven spread of consultation across the southern area of the district.

Watch the webcast

View the Overview and Scrutiny presentation and debate

Jim Axon Plain Old Country Boy Remembered

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Councillors, Democracy, Leader, Your council

Jim Axon

District Councillors and staff paid tribute and shared fond memories of former Epping Forest District Council Chairman, Jim Axon who passed away in December. Councillors and staff observed a minute`s silence at the meeting of Epping Forest District Council on Tuesday 19 January 2010 before swapping anecdotes in affectionate recollection.

Councillor Antony Watts led the tributes. Jim Axon was an experienced Councillor when Councillor Watts was first elected in 1987. He was one of a group of Councillors, known collectively as `The Farmers`. Councillor Axon was indeed a farmer at that time and represented the Village of Theydon Bois. Councillor Watts said that he was a man of common sense and few words but forthright when he spoke and a man to turn to for advice. Although very much his own man, Jim Axon was strongly supported by his wife June.

As a Committee Officer, Ian Willett also remembered Jim Axon. He recalled to general mirth in the Council Chamber how Councillor Axon would appear at his office door with the words Ian, I`m just a plain old country boy but ¦ Everyone knew that he was anything but.

Councillors Stephen Murray, Richard Morgan and Roland Frankel made their own tributes. Councillor Murray described Jim Axon as an `independent thinker`, `fair-minded` and `someone who treated everyone with respect`. Councillor Morgan remembered how he spoke his mind. Councillor Frankel knew Jim Axon after he left the Council. He described how Jim Axon missed the Council and how the Council would miss him.

One of life`s characters, Ian Willett would joke with Jim Axon about the one pullover he allegedly wore for 20 years. Councillor Axon would reply that he had another at home `which he kept for best.`

Councillor Penny Smith the current Chairman of Epping Forest District Council thanked everyone for their tributes to a `genial and lovely man`.

Former Chairman Remembered

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

Jim Axon

Jim Axon, former councillor and Chairman of Epping Forest District Council from 1991 to 1992 passed away in December.

Christened Walter but known to all as Jim, he represented the residents of Theydon Bois on the District Council from 1979 until 1996. He also chaired Plans Sub-committee B.

Jim Axon was well known within Theydon Bois. In addition to representing the area on the Council he was a local farmer who spent many active years in the community.

The Memorial Service is to be held from 2pm at Theydon Garnon Church on Wednesday 6 January 2010. Jim leaves his wife June and their children.

Councillors will observe a minute`s silence in honour of his memory at the next meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 19 January 2010.

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.

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.

Chairman Welcomes Guests to Copped Hall

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Civic events, Councillors, Democracy, Leader, Your council

Mayors and Chairman from Councils across Essex were able to see the latest renovation works to Copped Hall Mansion at a reception hosted by Epping Forest District Council Chairman, Councillor Penny Smith. The dignitaries were treated to a tour of the mansion which was gutted by fire in 1917, before viewing the gardens on a bright early autumn day in October.

Councillor Penny Smith and guests in front of Copped Hall

Picture caption – Councillor Penny Smith, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council and guests in front of Copped Hall.

Councillor Penny Smith with the Chairmans Escort Ian Hull in the Copped Hall gardenFrom being an empty shell open to the elements, members of the Copped Hall Trust have now made the mansion weather-proof. New floors and staircases are gradually being constructed as the Trustees open up the building for visitors. The gardens and many of the associated buildings have now been restored to something approaching their former glory. Historical artefacts and photographs form part of an exhibition in some of the newly-restored rooms.

Copped Hall is being opened up to cultural and community events ranging from music recitals to the now annual Rotary fun-run through the Estate.

Picture caption – Councillor Penny Smith, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council with the Chairmans Escort Ian Hull in the Copped Hall garden.

Councillor Penny Smith said: “Copped Hall is part of our district’s heritage. The current mansion was built in the grounds of a previous Tudor house where the first performance of ‘A Mid-summer Night’s Dream’ is reputed to have taken place. With the help of many volunteers, the Trustees have done a tremendous amount of work. Copped Hall is now open for advertised guided tours and the reception provided the perfect opportunity for us to spread the news about Copped Hall across Essex.”

Guests shown around the Copped Hall walled garden

Picture caption – guests shown around the Copped Hall walled garden.

“There is still much work to be done but the mansion retains a special atmosphere. As floors are laid, fireplaces are restored and the Trustees add furniture to some of the rooms, you begin to get a sense of how the house must have felt in its heyday. From the cellars and kitchens up to the main rooms and bedrooms, Copped Hall and its estate accommodated a rich and diverse community of people. It was a focal point for the people of Epping and Upshire. As the restoration continues, it is once again becoming a major asset to our district.”

Alan Cox of the Copped Hall Trust shows guests the renovation works

Picture caption – Alan Cox of the Copped Hall Trust shows guests the renovation works.

Councillor Smith’s guests enjoyed a light lunch in one of the newly-restored rooms, resplendent with a blazing logfire in a magnificently restored fireplace.

Gypsy and Traveller Reduction

Written on . Posted in Community, Countrycare, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Leader, Local plan / planning our future, Our countryside, Residents, Your community, Your council, Your environment

The Secretary of State published the final East of England Plan policy (H3) for Gypsy and Traveller pitch provision on 20 July 2009. Epping Forest District Council is required to provide an additional 34 pitches in the period 2006 to 2011. This would mean that the minimum number of authorised pitches in the district should total 128 by 2011. The policy expects pitch provision to be made through a combination of Development Plan Documents (DPD) and development control decisions and that opportunities should be taken to secure provision within major developments.

Councillor Di Collins Leader of Epping Forest District Council said: “We argued long and hard that the overall number of extra gypsy and traveller pitches allocated to our district was unfair in comparison to other Council areas. I am pleased we had some success. From an original draft allocation of 49, it was no mean feat to get the Government to reduce the figure to 34. However, I think the vast majority of Epping Forest residents will agree with me that the allocation is still too high and should have been much lower.

“Having confirmed our allocation, I think it is now up to the Government to listen very carefully to the views of local people about where the extra pitches should go in the district. Those decisions should be taken locally in conjunction with the needs of all our residents and not imposed by Government-appointed Inspectors.

The District Council is continuing to analyse responses made to the consultation for additional pitch locations within the district, which ran from November 2008 to February 2009. Discussions with GO-East about a revised timetable for submitting a draft DPD continue. Beyond 2011 the East of England Plan policy requires additional provision based on an annual 3% compound increase and advises that DPDs should consider the need for rural exception sites and the alteration of Green Belt boundaries.

The County of Essex and the Unitary Authorities of Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock are also required to make provision for 30 transit pitches by 2011.

Policy H4 deals with pitch provision for travelling show people and requires Essex, Southend and Thurrock to make provision for an additional 103 plots by 2011 with an annual 1.5% compound increase thereafter. Councils are again advised to consider rural exception sites and changes to Green Belt boundaries.

The implications of these two policies will be considered in the Autumn by the Council’s Local Development Framework Cabinet.

Councillor Penny Smith Elected as New Chairman

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

Epping Forest District Council has elected Councillor Penny Smith, ward member for Broadley Common, Epping Upland and Nazeing, as its new Chairman. The Annual Meeting of Epping Forest District Council began with outgoing Council Chairman, Councillor John Knapman thanking Councillors and staff for all their support during his year of office. He announced that he had raised more than £40,000 for his Chairman`s Charities. He concluded by thanking his wife Debbie and Vice-Chairman Councillor Penny Smith for all their support.

Councillor Di Collins, Leader of Council led praise for Councillor Knapman. Her comments were echoed by Liberal Democrat Group Leader Jon Whitehouse and BNP Group Leader Pat Richardson.

Councillor Knapman added that he was very proud of the Council and its Members. Following an invitation for nominations, Councillors Di Collins and Stephen Murray proposed Councillor Penny Smith as the new Chairman of Council, describing her fairness, competence and respect across the Council. Councillors unanimously agreed.

New Chairman Penny Smith signs the Declaration of Acceptance of Office, counter signed by Peter Haywood

New Chairman Penny Smith receives the Chain of Office from outgoing Chairman John Knapman

Councillor Smith thanked Members for the honour and announced that the Alzheimer`s West Essex Branch, based in Waltham Abbey which operates across the District will be the Chairman`s Charity for the forthcoming year. She asked Members to continue to provide the levels of support enjoyed by Councillor Knapman. One of her first fund-raising events will be the Annual Members and Officers Golf Day at Chigwell Golf Club on Tuesday 16 June. Not being a golfer, Councillor Smith will be offering her services as a Caddy for the day.

Councillor Smith invited nominations for Vice-Chairman. Councillor David Stallan proposed his Cabinet and North Weald colleague, Councillor Anne Grigg, seconded by Councillor Brian Rolfe. Mrs Grigg accepted the nomination, promising to serve with integrity and enthusiasm.

Anne Grigg was appointed Vice-Chairman

Councillors then moved to the appointment of the new Leader, Cabinet and Committee appointments.

Councillor Di Collins was re-elected as Council Leader and Chairman of the Cabinet. The Cabinet has been reduced from nine members to eight following the appointment of former Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder Councillor Anne Grigg as Vice-Chairman.

Cabinet Members

Leader – Councillor Di Collins
Finance and Economic Development – Councillor Chris Whitbread
Leisure and Wellbeing – Councillor Heather Harding
Community Safety and Transport – Councillor Syd Stavrou
Performance Management – Councillor Richard Bassett
Environment – Councillor Mary Sartin
Housing – Councillor David Stallan
Legal and Estates – Councillor Mitch Cohen

Councillor Richard Morgan was re-elected Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Councillor Brian Sandler will continue to Chair meetings of the District Development Control Committee. Councillor Richard Bassett became the first Chairman of the new Local Highways Panel.

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.