Provisional Site Allocation Reduced

Written on . Posted in Community, Countryside and wildlife, Democracy, Gypsy and traveller, Leader, Local plan / planning our future, Older people, Our countryside, Planning, Residents, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Go East, the regional office of the Government says the provisional allocation of additional gypsy and traveller site pitches for Epping Forest district has been reduced by ten from 49 to 39. The announcement is contained in the Examination in Public (EiP) Report into the Review of Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation in the East of England published on 18 December 2008. The EiP report now forms the basis of recommendations to the Government which will hold further consultation before issuing its final allocations next year.

Councillors and Planning Officers have consistently argued for a reduction in the number of pitches allocated to Epping Forest district. While Councillors feel the allocation remains unfairly high for Epping Forest in comparison to other districts, the reduction is a vindication of their stance. The Council will continue to press for further reductions.

The reduction for Epping Forest district is in marked contrast to most other parts of the region. Overall, the EiP has increased the regional allocation of extra traveller and gypsy pitches by a further 50 from 1,187 to 1,237.

The Government announcement comes as residents continue to respond to local consultation on the future provision of traveller and gypsy sites in the district.

Councillor Mrs Anne Grigg, Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: The announcement is a move in the right direction but I don`t think it goes far enough. Local residents are very concerned about the high number of extra traveller and gypsy pitches the district is being asked to accommodate. Epping Forest district already has more gypsy and traveller accommodation than most other areas. Even with the potential reduction from 49 to 39 extra pitches, we are still being asked to take substantially more than many other areas. We will continue to argue for further reductions.

The Secretary of State will consider the Review of Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation in the East of England and the recommendations of the EiP before issuing any proposed changes in the Spring. There will then be a further period of consultation. Go East says that the Secretary of State will publish the finalised policy in the Summer of 2009.

Cabinet Decisions 15 December

Written on . Posted in Community, Democracy, Leader, Meetings, Residents, Your community, Your council

In a step that Councillors hope will help local retailers, the Cabinet of Epping Forest District Council has agreed that there will be no increase in pay and display car park prices next year. Instead, any increased spending on car parks will be met from a further £60,000 of savings identified within the Council`s current budget. The Cabinet also reaffirmed its intention not to increase the District`s Council Tax precept by more than 2.5 per cent.

Watch the webcastwebcast of cabinet meeting on 15 December 2008
(opens in a new window)

Epping Forest District Council already provides some of the lowest pay and display car parking fees in Essex and the surrounding area, with the cheapest ticket costing 10 pence. Some free parking is also available in each of the district`s principle towns on Saturdays. All of the district`s pay and display car parks are also free on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas.

Councillor Richard Bassett, Civil Engineering and Maintenance Portfolio Holder confirmed that the freeze on charges would not mean any cuts in other services. He said: Council staff have managed to find savings in the budget and we will still continue with our improvement plans. Bakers Lane Car Park in Epping will benefit from investment of £120,000 including new lighting, CCTV, drainage, resurfacing and lining. Everyone knows that the Country is facing difficult economic times in the New Year. I hope that these measures will go some way towards helping our businesses by encouraging people to shop locally.

In another move to address the problems of people finding themselves victims of the economic downturn, the Cabinet recommended a bid to the Full Council of £20,000 for a scheme to help people afford rental payments in the private sector. Housing Portfolio Holder, Councillor David Stallan hopes the extra money will go to the Rental Loan Scheme from next April and will help to deal with any potential increase in people forced to register with the Council as homeless after home-repossessions.

In other matters discussed by the Cabinet held on 15 December, Councillor Mary Sartin gained approval for the Council to take on powers to remove untaxed cars from the district`s roads. National statistics suggest that 80 per cent of untaxed cars also lack insurance and many are also found to be unroadworthy. The presence of such vehicles is also linked to criminal activity and it is hoped that their removal will lead to a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour.

Council Pays Tribute to Local Hero

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

Tributes to Georgie Sparks at the Epping memorial

Councillors from Epping Forest District Council stood in silence at the beginning of the Council meeting on Tuesday 16 December 2008 in tribute to Royal Marine Georgie Sparks who was killed in action in Afghanistan.

 

Tributes at the Epping memeorial

Personal tributes were paid by Chairman of Council John Knapman and Council Leader Diana Collins. The Council offered its condolences to his family and friends including his sister Katie.

Watch the webcastwebcast of Council meeting on Tuesday 16 December 2008 (opens in a new window)

The following article first appeared on the website www.everythingeppingforest.co.uk (opens in a new window)

Epping came to a standstill on Saturday morning as the town remembered Royal Marine Georgie Sparks who was killed in action in Afghanistan. Hundreds of people packed into St John’s Church to pay tribute to the serviceman, on what would have been his 20th birthday.

A guard of honour stood outside as Royal Marine colleagues carried his coffin, draped in a Union flag, into the church. Georgie died along with Marine Tony Evans after both were on foot patrol with J Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines. They were north-west of Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province, when they moved on to the roof of a compound. There was an attack by insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and both were badly wounded.

Colleagues and war veterans joined members of Georgie’s family and local dignitaries – including Epping mayor Ben Murphy and Epping Forest District Council chairman John Knapman for his funeral service which included tributes from Georgie’s sister, Katie. She described how proud she was to have a brother like Georgie – who was known as Sparky to his friends – and also paid tribute to the four Marines who just hours earlier had also been killed in Afghanistan.

Mr Murphy told the everythingeppingforest website: “Today was obviously a highly emotional day for our town, the Royal Marine Corps, and for a family who have had to say goodbye to their brave son on his 20th birthday, just a week before Christmas.” He added: “Family, friends and comrades paid tribute to a remarkable, dedicated young man who valued his family enormously. This young man chose coming home to see his family every weekend he could over going out on the town with his fellow Marines.”

Epping High Street was closed to traffic as shoppers stood in silence. Several men removed their hats as a mark of respect as Georgie’s coffin, flanked by Royal Marines, made its way to the church. Mr Murphy said: “Today, Epping was shown the hard reality this country faces from fighting in a war against terrorism and injustice on behalf of those who are unable to defend themselves. We are all so proud of this young man who wasn’t afraid to stand up and be counted and who sadly lost his life doing so. May he rest in peace eternal.”

Georgie and colleague Tony Evans both received immediate medical attention after they were injured and were moved to a secure location before being put on a helicopter to be transferred back to Camp Bastion. However both died during the flight.

Georgie joined the Royal Marines in June 2006 and passed out from training in July 2007, joining 42 Commando a few days later. During his time at 42 Commando he qualified as a sniper. His parents, Wayne and Toni, and sister, Katie, said: “We have lost our best friend as well as our son. We are so very proud of Georgie – he always wanted to be a Royal Marine. Georgie loved the outdoors – fishing, shooting, paintballing – and was very close to his family.

We miss him so much.” Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Stickland Royal Marines, Commanding Officer, 42 Commando Royal Marines, said: “Marine Georgie Sparks was a quiet, understated professional. He lost his life fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with his comrades, covering their actions with his expert sniper skills.”

EFYC Funding

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

At the meeting on 10 November 2008, the Cabinet received a report on funding for the Epping Forest Youth Council (EFYC) for 2009 to 2010. The Cabinet requested the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to receive a presentation from the Youth Council giving an update on developing the Youth Council Programme.

Epping Forest Youth Councillors Claire Gilbert, Holly Whitbread, Alex Martin and Gabrielle Compton attended Overview and Scrutiny on 11 December 2008. Claire Gilbert gave an excellent overview of what the Youth Councillors have been doing this year from a running a district-wide piece of young persons` consultation to organising the recent Big Youth Debate at Woolston Manor.

Epping Forest Youth Councillor Claire Gilbert said: We were able to categorise our main priorities, as 17 individual young people working in sub-groups and have developed four of our five priority areas: Activities, Transport, Environment and Safety issues. In the second year of their term of office, they see firm action through these working groups replacing monthly training needs as the driving force of the Epping Forest Youth Council.

Youth Councillors have been formally contacted through the Council`s website by a number of young people and organisations wishing to use the Youth Council as a consultation sounding board and seek Members` support and involvement. This has included different departments from within the Council – Planning Services, the Safer Communities Partnership, Environmental Services and Community and Cultural Services, as well as external organisations including West Essex PCT, Epping Forest College and the Children and Young People`s Strategic Partnership.

Youth Councillors visited the Langston Road depot

During the summer Youth Councillors toured the district visiting a number of sites including: the proposed new site of the Loughton Youth Project next to Loughton Library, Loughton Police Station, Langston Road depot site and Ongar Sports Centre. The tour gave the Members a far greater geographic perspective of the district and enabled them to meet and discuss issues with a local Acting Police Inspector, a senior Connexions worker, a Recycling Officer and a Sports Centre Manager.

Epping Forest Youth Councillor Claire Gilbert said: We also see more face-to-face work in the community as a vital component of our second year success. Some of our Members have worked very hard to raise the expectations of their School Council and hold them to task in promoting young people`s initiatives. In this second year, we want to build on the good work of local schools` partnerships by holding Youth Councillor drop-in surgeries at lunchtimes and after school and getting more young people engaged in local issues and the opportunities that are out there.

Their last training session was organised by Community Development Officer Gill Wallis which gave them an introduction to the Chairmen of the four Young People`s Action Groups: Essex Road Safety, Essex Drugs and Alcohol Service, Essex Youth Offending Team and West Essex PCT. They feel that as an elected group, not only must they voice the views of young people to these sorts of service providers but also have a role to play in voicing the services that are being provided back to young people – especially those provided by Epping Forest District Council.

    To date, Epping Forest Youth Council have been successful in securing external funding to the sum of £11,132. This has been made up as follows:

  • £5,500 from the West Essex Area Forum
  • £2,200 from the Epping Forest Children and Young People`s Strategic Partnership
  • £1,832 from the Youth Opportunity and Youth Capital Fund
  • £1,000 from the Grange Farm Trust
  • £300 from the Loughton Youth Project
  • £300 from the Jack Petchey Foundation

Epping Forest Youth Councillor Claire Gilbert said: Without funding from Epping Forest District Council of a similar sum of approximately £12,000 to support our training, meeting, transport and general revenue costs we would not have been able to run this year. On behalf of all our Members I would like to thank Epping Forest District Council for this support and formally request that the same level of support, in the sum of £12,000 be made available for the Youth Council in the next financial year.

Epping Forest Youth Council has successfully developed over the last nine months as a valuable resource to Epping Forest District Council. The 17 Youth Councillors, who are aged between 13 and 17 years, have undertaken a wide range of training and development to support them in their roles and have each taken specific responsibility for a portfolio or area of business.

Stakeholders Rise to the Challenge

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

 

Local MPs, the Leader of Epping Forest District Council, the Chief Executive of the West Essex Primary Care Trust and the Western Division Chief Superintendent of Essex Police are just some of the high-profile people who have accepted the invitation of the Epping Forest Youth Council to attend an evening of debate with young people from across the Epping Forest District.

Local MPs Eleanor Laing, Eric Pickles and Bill Rammell have all agreed to take a place on the panel that will face questioning by their young local constituents from various school councils, youth groups and other backgrounds.

On the panel will also be the Leader of Epping Forest District Council Councillor Diana Collins and Deputy Chief Executive Derek Macnab, as well as Essex County Council Cabinet member Councillor Ray Gooding, Children, Young People and Families Officer Lonica Vanclay and Transport Officer, Nick Roberts. In addition, the panel will include West Essex Primary Care Trust Chief Executive Aidan Thomas, Police Chief Superintendent Timothy Stokes and renowned Musician/Actor and Youth Charity Worker Shovell, of `M-People` fame.

The panel consists of individuals who are qualified to answer questions on all of the themed topics of a recent young people`s survey, conducted by Epping Forest Youth Council.

Youth Councillor Reece Williams said: We are really encouraged by how forthcoming the panel members have been in attending the Big Youth Debate. This really sends out a positive message that authorities such as the Police, the Health Service and our local Councils want to work with young people, which is really good. We, as young people, have to make sure that we make the most of this opportunity.

Councillor Diana Collins, who has been a big supporter of the Epping Forest Youth Council said: The Youth Council have done very well to consult with over 850 of their peers. I am looking forward with interest to hearing their conclusions regarding local crime and safety, environmental and transport issues.

There are still a few places available for young people aged 11 to 19 to attend the Big Youth Debate event, which takes place at Woolston Manor Golf Club, Chigwell on Wednesday 19 November 2008 from 6:30pm. Anyone interested should contact the Council`s Young Persons` Officer Nick Robinson on 01992 564365.

Council 25 September 2008

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

A report and link to webcast of the full Council meeting held in the Council chamber at the Civic Offices on Thursday 25 September 2008.

To view this webcast click on the link below and then click on the index points tab to go direct to the agenda item.

Watch the webcastCouncil meeting 25 September 2008 webcast
(opens in a new window)

Members of the Epping Forest District Council stood in silent tribute to former Councillor Roger Buddock who recently passed away. Councillor Stephen Murray, a fellow Loughton ward Councillor remembered Roger Buddock fondly as a man who still held a high reputation locally for the good work he carried out for his residents during two periods on the District Council between 1980 and 1988 and again from 1991 to 1995. Councillor Murray also thanked the current Vice Chairman of Council, Councillor Mrs Penny Smith for attending the funeral.

Councillor Knapman reported his thanks to everyone who contributed £6,000 to his charities at a recent golf day.

Portfolio Report – Local Education

Councillor Diana Collins, Leader of Council reported on a series of information gathering visits to local secondary schools and Epping Forest College where she met the new Principal. Further visits have been arranged for Councillor Collins, accompanied by the leader of Essex County Council, the local education Authority.

Community Wellbeing

Portfolio Holder Councillor Syd Stavrou was pleased to report a fall in crime across the District. She then drew attention to the ‘Not in my Neighbourhood’ initiative, safety testing of electric blankets and work with the Essex Fire and Rescue Service. Councillor Stavrou concluded by recommending Members to attend the next meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at which representatives of West Essex Primary Care Trust would be answering questions.

Questions

Members of the Cabinet were quizzed by other Councillors in a series of questions without notice. Civil Engineering and Maintenance Portfolio Holder, Richard Bassett was particularly busy answering questions ranging from recent gridlock in Chigwell to parking restrictions in Loughton.

Credit Union

Councillor Mrs Janet Whitehouse placed a motion before Members, calling on the Council to support a local Credit Union. Credit Unions help people on low incomes to access loans at low interest rates and one supported by many voluntary and religious organisations. All Members supported the motives and after some debate and technical amendments the motion was carried unanimously.

    Other major items debated by Full Council included:

  • Adoption of the Essex Joint Municipal Waste Management Strategy
  • Adoption of the Development and Design Brief for Loughton Broadway
  • Supplementary estimates for the completion of the Bobbingworth Tip project
  • Future options for North Weald Airfield
  • Re-approval of the Statutory Statement of Accounts for 2007 to 2008
  • Nominations for the Governing Body of Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust

Cabinet 6 October 2008

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

Local residents filled the public gallery as the Cabinet met to discuss draft proposals to consult on Traveller and Gypsy site provision.

In a report, councillors heard that the Council had been directed to identify land for 49 pitches up to 2011. More pitches are required thereafter.

To view this webcast click on the link below and then click on the index points tab to go direct to the agenda item.

Watch the webcastCabinet meeting 6 October 2008 webcast
(opens in a new window)

Portfolio Holder for Planning and Economic Development, Councillor Ann Grigg made it clear that the Council had no choice. She explained that 27 potential sites had been identified using criteria such as schools, health and employment. None of these sites was agreed or set in stone. The consultation process would allow local people to express their views before the Council made recommendations to the Government. She added that any proposals would be assessed in a formal Examination in Public (EiP).

The Council`s Planning Consultant Andrew Lainton acknowledged how sensitive and controversial the process could be. He outlined the steps in consultation including public exhibitions, work with town and parish councils as well as dealing directly with landowners and concerned residents.

Mr Lainton emphasised that objections needed to be based on evidence. The inspectors at the EiP would be looking for reasons why one site might be better or worse than another.

Councillor Richard Bassett said that it was very important for people to have their say. He felt they must have good guidance. Andrew Lainton replied that guidance notes would form part of the consultation document.

Councillor David Stallan asked for reassurances that exhibitions would be given maximum publicity. Councillor Grigg said she would try to reach every single person in the district.

Councillor Mrs Grigg said that this was not a definitive list and hoped people would come forward with their own suggestions.

Responding to further questions, Mrs Grigg said that failure to carry out consultation would lead to the Government sending an Inspector to impose a solution.

Councillor Richard Bassett raised the issue of the number of pitches, and the influence of large concentrations in small areas. The debate then broadened out with some councillors expressing feelings about the way in which the Government was directing the process.

At the conclusion of the report to Cabinet, Councillor Mrs Grigg answered public questions. She explained that where two large potential sites lay side-by-side at Crooked Mile both could not go ahead.

Rumours of an imminent compulsory purchase were also dismissed by John Preston, the Director of Planning and Economic Development.

    Other items debated by Cabinet included:

  • reports of the Finance and Performance Cabinet Committee
  • funding for the Local Development Framework
  • playing fields at Ongar Leisure Centre
  • waste management
  • the Capital Programme
  • cost awards following a recent planning appeal
  • fire cover at North Weald Airfield

Golf Day Boost for Local Charities

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Civic events, Councillors, Democracy, Doing business with the council, Leader, Meetings, Your council

On Monday 22 September 2008 Theydon Bois Golf Club again played host to the Chairman of Epping Forest District Council Councillor John Knapman and teams from local businesses at the Council`s Charity Business Golf Day. Two local charities will receive a cash boost thanks to this annual fundraising event sponsored by Higgins Group PLC in Loughton, which raised £6,000.

Winning Team Stace with Councillor John Knapman

This year the Chairman`s is raising money for St Clare Hospice, Hastingwood which cares for people and their families who are affected by life-threatening incurable diseases and Vitalise Jubilee Lodge, Chigwell which offers a variety of accessible residential respite breaks and other services designed for disabled people and their carers.

Individual Winner Matthew Knight with Councillor John KnapmanWinning Team Captain, Mike Hutchins from Stace, receiving the John Gilliham Shield

Councillor Knapman said: I thank Higgins Group and Theydon Bois Golf Club for their support again this year and the continued support from local clubs, societies and businesses. During the years that this event has been running over £70,000 has been raised for many local causes. The Business Golf day plays a fantastic part in the Chairman`s charity events calendar helping to provide comfort to local people through local charities in a hugely positive way.

The overall winner of the individual competition was Matthew Knight and for the second year in succession, the winning team was from Stace, based in Epping. The Business Golf Day continues to provide a valuable contribution to the Chairman`s Charity each year and I am delighted that so many local businesses have been able to support the Chairman`s Charity again this year, said Councillor Knapman.

Report from the Cabinet

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

Free swimming, the development of the second runway for Stansted and consultation with local residents of the Broadway featured in a packed Cabinet agenda on Monday 1 September 2008.

Watch the webcast

Watch a webcast of the 1 September 2008 Cabinet meeting

Free Swimming

Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Councillor Heather Harding invited John Gilbert, Head of Environment and Street Scene to outline proposals for free swimming to people over 60 and under 16 years of age. Councils were being asked to apply for Government grants. Not all the information was available. The Government had quantified support for those over 60s but not under 16 at this stage. Discussions with the Council`s Leisure Management Contractor are ongoing.

Loughton Pool

Councillor Chris Whitbread was concerned about what would happen after the initial two years of Government funding. Would the Government continue to fund the scheme or would costs fall to the Council?

The Cabinet agreed in principle to participate subject to further discussion with SLM and information from Government.

Value for Money Review

Members of the Cabinet agreed the recommendations of the Finance and Performance Management Cabinet Committee. Councillor Chris Whitbread, Portfolio Holder for the report agreed that the Council provided Value for Money but drew out the Committee`s concerns regarding some of the information used by the Audit Commission.

Aircraft in flight over EppingSecond Stansted Runway Application

Members of the Cabinet gave Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder Councillor Ann Grigg the go ahead to make formal objections to Stansted Airport`s application for a second runway. There was support for a detailed report which included objections ranging from disruption for local people through to environmental concerns over global warming. The application has been called in by the Government and will be reviewed at a Public Inquiry.

Responding to a question, Planning Officer Ian White said that the possibility of Stansted being sold by BAA did not necessarily remove the prospect of a second runway.

Councillor Jon Whitehouse supported opposition to the runway saying that he was pleased the Council was standing up to be counted.

Loughton Leisure Centre

Councillor Heather Harding obtained consent for £46,000 to deal with hot water heating problems at Loughton Leisure Centre.

Housing

Members of the Cabinet noted progress on the Springfield Improvement scheme in Waltham Abbey. Housing Portfolio Holder, Councillor David Stallan also recommended the acceptance of tenders for the upgrade of communal TV aerial systems for Council schemes in further preparation for the switch from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.

Careline control centre

Following a review of Careline, Cabinet also agreed recommendations by Councillor Stallan to retain and enhance the service. Councillor Mrs Diana Collins and Councillor Jon Whitehouse praised the service.

Councillor Whitehouse enquired if further expansion of Careline in the future could lead to even more enhancements to associated housing services in the future.

Prudential Indicators – Investments

Councillor Chris Whitbread was pleased to report the very good performance of the Council`s investments and the continued debt-free status.

Essex Waste Management Strategy

The long-term aims of achieving 60% recycling across Essex were supported by Cabinet as members endorsed the Essex Joint Municipal Waste Mangement Strategy. Environmental Protection Portfolio Holder, Councillor Mary Sartin also reported delays on completion of remedial work to Bobbingworth Tip. The former landfill site will ultimately become a pocket park but a shortage of topsoil caused by the current reduction in other construction work across the area has delayed completion. Councillor Sartin received support for a recommendation to Council for an extra £112,000 allowing completion of the scheme to an enhanced level.

Green Biodegradable Sacks

Demand for green sacks could lead to an overspend on budgets this year. Councillor Mrs Sartin outlined predicted usage showing a potential extra cost of £163,000. However, much of that cost could be offset by income from recycling credits with the final shortfall possibly being as little as £21,000. Members discussed the forthcoming consultation with residents which could lead to reduced reliance on sacks.

Ongar Lorry Park

Members of the Cabinet agreed to terminate the lease for the Borough Lorry Park site in Ongar hoping this would clear the way for Essex County Council to make proposals for the long term, possibly in partnership with Ongar Town Council.

Loughton Broadway Development Brief

Cabinet authorised Planning and Economic Development Portfolio Holder Councillor Ann Grigg to make amendments to the Loughton Broadway Development Brief following the successful conclusion of the recent public consultation. Twelve amendment headings including references to the Gateway development, petrol station, links to Langston Road, parking, housing and cycling will be incorporated for presentation to Full Council on 25 September 2008.

 

Council Answers Refuse and Recycling Audit Report

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Councillors, Leader, Meetings, Recycling and waste, Your council

Senior Councillors have given a robust response to a refuse and recycling report by the Audit Commission. Councillor Mrs Diana Collins, Leader of Epping Forest District Council and Councillor Mrs Mary Sartin, Environmental Protection Portfolio holder say that despite a one star `Fair` rating, Epping Forest District Council and its residents now have one of the best recycling rates in Essex. We don`t tick the Audit Commission boxes but we do deliver services our residents want. said Councillor Mrs Collins.

Councillor Collins continued: The Audit Commission looks at Council performance against a set of rigid criteria. It is a blunt instrument and I think they have struggled with our particular local circumstances.

She continued: New refuse and recycling arrangements were introduced three years ago. With hindsight, the timing could not have been worse as the system of alternate weekly collection proved extremely unpopular. It was a remarkably hot summer and many residents complained that the alternate weekly collection resulted in bad smells, maggots and flies.

Separately, our contractor was experiencing financial problems and struggling to remain in business. When he finally went into administration we acted extremely quickly and decisively. We put a temporary contractor in place without any interruption to services while adapting our service with a return to summer weekly collections.

Extensive consultation confirmed the public support for the changes we had made. As we went from interim arrangements to a new contractor, we honoured our commitments to maintain weekly summer collections.

Councillor Mrs Diana Collins and Councillor Mrs Mary Sartin with SITA refuse collectors

Pictured above – Councillor Mrs Diana Collins, Leader of Epping Forest District Council and Councillor Mrs Mary Sartin, Environmental Protection Portfolio Holder join SITA refuse collectors Jamie Lee and Dave Harwood on a refuse collection round in Epping

There was an inevitable increase in costs as we drafted in a temporary contractor but our new long term contract is much more cost effective. The Audit Commission says that excluding a return to the original Alternate Weekly collection arrangements undermined value for money. We argue that we had a duty to listen to our residents who clearly did not want to return to the original system.

Our ability to exceed very high recycling targets in the new contract without passing extra costs to residents in Council Tax also seemed to cause the Audit Commission difficulty. They thought our rejection of Alternate Weekly Collection compromised value for money but in other discussions have also asked why we did not increase Council Tax by more. We have a strong financial position thanks to prudent management. It gives us the scope to invest in services based on the choices made by people locally rather than fitting a `one-size-fits-all` national model.

The Audit Commission also doubts the Council`s capacity for further improvements to refuse and recycling, saying the prospects are `uncertain`. However, Councillor Mary Sartin points to the major improvements already implemented over the past three years, high recycling rates and plans to consult residents about the next steps.

She said: We are about to consult everyone on how we move forward again. Every household in the District will receive a survey questionnaire during September, delivered as an insert within the Forester magazine. It will explain how the Council aims to increase recycling even further and cut the overall amount of waste going to landfill.

Mrs Sartin continued: Residents have three main options to consider. Each has its unique merits but the main improvement offered by all three will be to transfer kitchen food waste from landfill disposal to recycling while collecting it every week, summer and winter. We need as much public feedback as possible. Whatever option we adopt, it will only work properly if it has widespread public support. This is your chance to tell us what you want. Your comments will help us choose the final scheme and it is therefore vital that we get as many people to respond as possible.

Whichever option we choose, this will be another huge step forward. It really doesn`t fit in with the Audit Commission doubts about improvements. I believe our actions speak for themselves.

As well as The Forester survey which should be returned using the Freepost address, the survey will be available online on the homepage of the Epping Forest District Council website at www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk. Closing date for responses is 24 October 2008.