Council Tax frozen for 4th year

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Councillors have frozen Epping Forest District Council’s portion of the Council Tax for the fourth year.

Leader of Council, Councillor Chris Whitbread praised the work of fellow councillors and staff in maintaining front-line services and reducing ‘real terms’ costs at a time when residents are still financially stretched. He said: “This is a brilliant budget. We are a low tax council authority and will remain so.”

Good budget

Councillor Whitbread emphasised the importance of taking as little money as possible in taxation to maximise the money left in residents’ pockets to spend in local goods, services and in the district’s high streets.

He continued: “We’ve put £35,000 aside to promote our High Streets because we want to see them vibrant and working. This is a good budget, a good budget for residents, a good budget for trade and a good budget for our services at the council which we’ve continued to deliver well for Epping Forest.”

Find out more

 

Cabinet agrees council tax freeze

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Members of the cabinet agreed to freeze Epping Forest District Councils part of the council tax at a meeting of cabinet on Monday 3 February 2014.

Subject to approval at the meeting of full council in February, Leader of Council Councillor Chris Whitbread said: “We have achieved our aspirations again to be a low council tax authority, another 0% council tax increase from Epping Forest District Council.”

Click on the agenda items below to watch the debate

 

Become a youth councillor

Written on . Posted in Community, Democracy, Elections, Leader, Media, Meetings, Out and about, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council

Are you aged between 13 and 17 and want to give young people a voice in the community?

If yes, the Epping Forest Youth Council (EFYC) is looking for candidates like you to stand for election to be a youth councillor to represent young people in the Epping Forest district.

P1120197

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

What do youth councillors do?

Youth councillors are elected for 2 years. They are required to attend 2 evening meetings a month at the civic offices in Epping. They will also have to organise a community event at their school, encouraging pupils to volunteer and to give something to the community.

The youth councillors will be trained to develop skills in public speaking and giving presentations.

Council officers will be visiting schools to explain the role and encourage candidates to stand.

What is Epping Forest Youth Council?

Epping Forest Youth Council is an elected group of non-party political young people. Formed in 2007, it was set up to involve young people in the decisions made by Epping Forest District Council on services and issues that affect their age group.

Epping Forest district secondary schools will each have 2 Youth Council seats and there are 4 independent seats for candidates who either attend school or college outside the district, or are excluded from school, home educated or even working.

Interested?

If you are interested in becoming a youth councillor, go to www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/efyc for the nomination pack. If you decide to stand as a youth councillor, complete the EFYC candidate information booklet and return it by Friday 14 February.

Elections will take place in schools between Monday 10 March to Friday 21 March 2014.

Want to know more?

Contact Diane Butler the Young Persons’ Officer on 01992 564365 or email dbutler@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

 

Financial update at Council meeting

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Announcements and decisions led to optimism for the long term financial forecast at the meeting of Epping Forest District Council on 17 December 2013.

 

 

Watch the webcast and read the agenda

Chancellors Autumn Statement

Finance Portfolio Holder, Councillor Syd Stavrou outlined the latest financial and economic issues facing the district following the Chancellors Autumn Statement to Parliament.

Councillor Stavrou reported that signs of improvement in the economy were also true for the public finances as a whole. However, the strategy to eliminate the deficit meant additional spending reductions of £1.1 billion in 2014/15 and £1 billion in 2015/16.

As local authorities have already achieved greater savings than other areas of government they are excluded from these reductions. The Chancellor also stated that in future local government will receive long term settlements. Councillor Stavrou said this would improve the council’s ability to make robust plans for the medium term.

Councillor Stavrou reported that the Chancellors confirmation of the rules on the New Homes Bonus meant income from it could be included in the Council’s Continuing Service Budget next year. This had closed the budget gap for 2014/15 but the council still needed to find savings and cost reductions to help ease the pressure on later years when significant savings are still required.

The Chancellor’s statement also included a £1.1 billion package of measures to assist growth through reducing the burden of business rates including

  • The inflationary increase for 2014/15 that would normally have been 3.2% has been capped at 2%
  • A £1,000 discount for retail, pubs and cafes with rateable values below £50,000 for 2 years
  • The doubling of Small Business Rate Relief for a further year
  • The business rates appeal process will be reviewed and action taken to clear the backlog

Councillor Stavrou welcomed the initiatives to help businesses and the Chancellor’s promise that councils would be fully refunded for any loss resulting from the changes.

Purchase of leasehold interest – properties in Torrington Drive, Loughton

Councillors later agreed to buy the head lease of the Debden Broadway Sainsbury’s store in Torrington Drive subject to the agreement of Sainsbury’s to refurbishment including the demolition of existing shop units and a new 49 space car park.

Should the deal go through, the council would receive yearly return on its investment of £224,424, representing a 6.44% net yield on the purchase price of £3,484,000. Full Council also heard that the arrangement would significantly simplify the arrangements between Sainsbury’s and the council as well as aiding long term regeneration aims for the Broadway.

Directorate restructuring

Annual savings of £354,000 will also be achieved following a review of the council’s top-management structure. Chief Executive Glen Chipp presented a report to Full Council which reduces the number of directorates from 7 to 4. Mr Chipp reported that after voluntary redundancy and early retirement costs involving 3 directors and 2 assistant directors, the restructure would pay for itself in just over 1 year.

Council Leader Chris Whitbread complimented Glen Chipp on the restructure and in particular the work with staff to deliver the proposals.

Christmas gift donations

In other items, the importance of sign language formed the introduction to Chairman’s Announcements at Council after Councillor Sartin described her attendance at the Deaf and Deaf Blind service at Chelmsford Cathedral.

As Christmas approached she also thanked residents who donated toys to children spending the holiday period in refuges from domestic abuse. Having collected many gifts donated by residents through a collection organised by Tesco in Waltham Abbey, she reported further donations form the Theydon Oak Public House and St Winifred’s Church in Chigwell.

Songs by The Clash and the Arctic Monkeys featured in a musical evening attended by the Chairman at Davenant Foundation School. Councillor Sartin also attended a very festive Christmas event at Waltham Abbey Town Hall and held her own Christmas Carol Service.

Transport

Transport issues dominated the report to Full Council by Councillor Chris Whitbread. He began with an outline of discussions surrounding Stansted Airport, its rail links and the economic impact of the airport on the Epping Forest district. He then went on to outline discussions held with the Leader of Redbridge Council as plans for Cross Rail 2 progress.

Responding to a question from Councillor Penny Smith, Councillor Whitbread described his meeting with the Chief Executive of Stansted as the most positive he could have had. He saw the outlook for jobs and recruitment within Epping Forest district as being very encouraging.

Residents and traders are to be consulted on the introduction of taxi meters and fares to Hackney Carriages licensed in Epping Forest district.

 

Broadway ‘gateway’ building approved

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Planning permission has been granted for the redevelopment of the Sir Winston Churchill public house site in Debden Broadway.

Foul language and interruptions from the public gallery forced a temporary suspension of the District Development Control Committee at Epping Forest District Council on Wednesday 11 December 2013. Committee Chairman, Councillor Brian Sandler repeatedly appealed for members of the public to respect the process of the debate before other councillors voted to suspend the meeting and clear the public gallery. The meeting continued after a short delay with members of the press present. The debate was also webcast for live and subsequent viewing. Those members of the public choosing to stay were able to watch the debate from the council’s ground floor reception area.
Artists impression of the new development

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

The controversy surrounded a planning application at the Broadway in Debden. It comprised redevelopment of the site of the Sir Winston Churchill pub, and a number of lock-up garages owned by the council. The applicant planned to build a new 7 storey building with parking. 64 new flats were proposed for the upper floors with retail, food and drink units on the ground floor. 62 parking spaces, a service yard, access and car parking completed the plan of development.

Watch the webcast

Read the agenda

A section 106 legal agreement would require a contribution of £192,000 towards local primary and secondary school facilities as well as £14,400 towards health services.

Former councillor Joan Davis spoke on behalf of objectors to the proposal. She argued that it was an overdevelopment and out of keeping with other parts of the Broadway. She felt that parking and traffic congestion would be detrimental to existing residents and objected to the lack of an affordable housing element to the proposed scheme.

Local resident Christopher Holt argued that the height of the development was out of proportion and the shadow cast by the building could be dangerous to road safety. He called for further traffic assessments.

Town Councillor Jill Angold-Stephens spoke for Loughton Town Council. She referred back to earlier proposals for housing at a lower density and the inclusion of affordable housing. She described the current public house as an iconic gateway to the Broadway and asked the developer to think again.

Mr Simmons for the applicant referred to the council’s own development brief calling for more retail and business. He asserted that it would not mean the loss of a pub. He argued that the development would bring jobs and regeneration as well as new housing. He asserted that ‘affordable’ housing would make the scheme unviable but that the section 106 contribution of over £200,000 would bring much needed community investment. He felt that the development was in line with council policy and would stimulate future ‘affordable’ housing opportunities.

Mr Simmons said that the changes in traffic would be small and the development would bring many benefits to the area.

Councillor Jennie Hart, a local ward member spoke of the concerns around the loss of the Sir Winston Churchill. She also expressed concerns about the size and scale of the proposed development which she felt was out of keeping with the wider area. She was concerned about the potential disturbance to existing local residents and felt the lack of affordable housing in a deprived area was unacceptable. She asked the committee to consider a redesign on a much smaller scale with screening and landscaping.

Councillor James Hart felt that the Broadway would benefit from some redevelopment but he had concerns about the height and scale of this particular proposal. He noted that while it might be ‘much-loved’ the pub was not profitable. He proposed refusal based on the height and bulk of the proposed building.

Councillor Gary Waller felt that the proposal had merit. He said that it would make a very interesting addition to the Broadway scene and would also bring a considerable number of new residents with ‘purchasing power’ to the benefit of the wider area. Over time he felt it would benefit the area.

Councillor David Stallan supported the proposal and the comments of Councillor Waller while acknowledging some of the points made by Councillor Jennie Hart. Councillors debated the scope for landscape planting.

Councillor John Markham felt that the proposed building was a ‘decent piece of work’ but felt the architects should think again about where it should go. He also expressed concern about the omission of affordable housing from the proposal.

Councillor John Knapman described the decision as a ‘much closer call’ than people might think. He asked if the pub could be nominated as an asset of community value. It was reported that Loughton Town Council had discussed the idea but had not as yet reached a decision.

Councillor Knapman discussed the potential income from the redevelopment of the site towards future provision of affordable housing. However, he was more concerned about the commercial viability of the current pub. He balanced the merits of housing development on a brown-field site with the potential demand for future development sites elsewhere. He felt the economic advantages of redevelopment were clear. He asked if this was the ‘right’ building design.

Councillor Yolanda Knight felt that such a development could be a catalyst for regeneration. She drew comparisons with examples in Harlow and Chelmsford which she felt lifted the businesses around them.

Councillor John Philip explored some of the Highways issues. He felt that the shadow would not cause problems. He liked the design but raised issues about the size and particularly the height. Like Councillor Knapman, he felt the arguments were finely balanced.

Councillor Jon Whitehouse recalled the Broadway Development Brief which had supported the replacement of the existing pub but he was not certain that a development on the scale of the proposal had been foreseen.

Councillor Caroline Pond said that she felt the building was too big for the site. The college on the opposite side of Rectory Lane was set back from the road and landscaped whereas the proposed building would be more prominent.

Councillor John Markham also felt the section 106 contribution of £14,000 towards health services was insufficient.  

Councillor Leon Girling was not a member of the committee but spoke as a ward councillor. He argued that the residents of Debden wished to keep the essential character of the area. He agreed that some form of development on the site was necessary but not a building of this bulk and height.

Other non-committee members also spoke. Councillor David Wixley and Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens both felt the building was too large. Councillor Lance Leonard appealed to members of the committee to consider the principles of ‘localism’ in reaching their decision.

A motion to refuse the application on the basis of excessive height, bulk and lack of soft landscaping was lost by 5 votes to 8 with 2 abstentions. Committee Chairman, Councillor Brian Sandler then called a second vote in which councillors were reminded to set aside personal feelings and vote purely according to planning considerations. The committee voted 9 to 6 in favour of the planning application.

 

Minister sets out support for town centres

Written on . Posted in Business, Commercial properties, Doing business with the council, Leader, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Out and about, Parking, Planning, Recycling and waste, Supporting business, Your council

The future form and function of high streets will be debated when the Leader of Epping Forest District Council, Councillor Chris Whitbread shares a platform with Government Minister Brandon Lewis MP and other key opinion formers. The debate is set to focus on the strategic thinking that will be needed to help high streets and town centres thrive.

The conference on December 2, at Sadlers Wells in London, gives the opportunity to hear from veteran retailer Bill Grimsey, author of the controversial Grimsey Report; Matthew Hopkinson, of the Local Data Company; and Dr Julie Grail of British BIDs.

Councillor Chris Whitbread outside Argus Lighting, a mainstay of Epping High Street for decades

Councillor Chris Whitbread outside Argus Lighting which has illuminated Epping High Street for decades

Along with case studies from successful town centres, and a selection of political representatives, delegates will have an opportunity to hear cutting edge thinking on managing town centres, and to hear the very latest in the debate around their future – how restoring community uses and reducing retail footprint could help, what trends can be seen in the data, and how businesses of all types can be encouraged to take the lead in managing the future.

Councillor Chris Whitbread knows all about local high streets, having run his own business in Epping for many years. He said: “The way we use our high streets is changing and businesses need to change with us. Out-of-town retail and online shopping have revolutionised the way we use our high streets. For some businesses, that means our online presence is now just as important as our shop fronts. For others we may have to look even more fundamentally at what we are doing and why.”

He continued: “High streets and town centres need to reinvent themselves. Today’s customer is looking as much for a social and leisure experience as for bargains and deals. Many people believe bars, restaurants and coffee shops are becoming some of the new ‘High Street Kings’. They draw people in and encourage them to spend their money. It is then up to the rest of us to make the best offer we can to deliver the full modern High Street experience.”

The conference is being organised by The London Stansted Cambridge Corridor Consortium, a partnership of public and private organisations covering the area north of Tech City, the City Fringe, Kings Cross, and the Olympic Park, up through the Lee Valley and M11/A10, and West Anglia Rail corridors to Harlow and Stansted, and through to Cambridge. The partnership was formed to organise and promote what is the economic area, with strong inter-connections; commuting to work and learn patterns, clusters of industries and supply chains. 

Councillor Whitbread believes councils have a very important part to play. He said: “Thriving town centres are an essential element in the lives of our local communities. They provide investment and employment that can lift whole communities out of deprivation into prosperity. At Epping Forest we always try to be on the side of our High Streets.  We can do practical things such as keeping our parking charges low and offering incentives such as free parking on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas. We can use our powers as the Planning Authority to encourage a mix of uses that compliment each other and stimulate trade. We can draw people in from outside our area by promoting ourselves as a visitor and tourist destination. We can contribute to the infrastructure and care of our town centres whether that means decent pavements, good lighting or frequent street cleansing.”

He concluded: “It is a full partnership between the public and private sector. We understand the changing face of our High Streets and will do our best to encourage residents to shop local wherever possible.”

Local economy and praise for young people at council meeting

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The Celebration of Youth event organised by Epping Forest Youth Council drew praise from senior councillors at the meeting of the Full Council on 4 November. Councillor Chairman, Councillor Mary Sartin led the tributes to young people who transformed the council chamber the previous week from its usual sober atmosphere with the application of lights and music. Council Leader, Councillor Chris Whitbread agreed, saying that the event was absolutely outstanding.

 

Councillor Whitbread also congratulated nine new apprentice members of staff on their appointment to the Council and reported on further discussions with council colleagues across Essex on additional support for young people and the development of workplace skills.

The local economy is increasingly turning towards tourism as a means of generating jobs and inward investment. Councillor Whitbread reported on a recent tour of local tourist attractions with the Deputy Leader of Essex County Council, Councillor Kevin Bentley, and the launch of the Phoenix facility on the site of the former North Weald Little Chef, which is being used as a base for developing closer business and investment ties with China.

Support for the local economy featured in a number of questions at the Council meeting. Portfolio Holder Councillor Anne Grigg responded to Councillor Jon Whitehouse by outlining a number of ways the Council was working towards the creation of new jobs and investment.

The purchase of the second floor of Bridgeman House in Sun Street, Waltham Abbey to preserve the office accommodation above the museum for local jobs and businesses was warmly welcomed by members of the Council.

Portfolio Holder Councillor Gary Waller fielded questions ranging from energy consumption to car parking. He was able to report that the Buckhurst Hill parking review was proceeding well, leaving the prospects looking good for the Debden review to go forward next year.

Council officers are authorised to make certain decisions regarding planning applications under delegated powers within the Council’s constitution. Detailed debate took place concerning recommendations by members of the District Development Control Committee on the merits of proposed changes. While Councillors approved the report, they also raised issues for further consideration by District Development Control.

Taxis and drivers are licensed by the Council. Councillors approved a new Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy to ensure residents are transported in a safe and secure manner.

View the full agenda and reports here.

Celebration of youth groups

Written on . Posted in Chairman, Civic events, Community, Councillors, Democracy, Leader, Media, Residents, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council

Epping Forest Youth Council hosted a special evening in the Council Chamber at Epping Forest District Council to recognise and celebrate the work that youth groups carry out in the district.

Before the event started, groups were able to visit the ‘Market Place’, which provided information for young people on all sorts of organisations, including the Scouts, the NHS, Samaritans and various youth groups.

Photos

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A packed Council Chamber then heard about 23 various youth groups, who were then presented with a certificate of thanks by the Chairman of Council Councillor Mary Sartin, Leader of the Council Councillor Chris Whitbread and Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Wellbeing Councillor Liz Webster.

Various speakers from Voluntary Action Epping Forest, Essex County Council Youth Services, Youth Futures and the Essex Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs provided information on opportunities for funding, volunteering and training. The Young Citizen of the Year and Youth Councillor Jaymey McIvor encouraged everyone to nominate a Young Citizen and Youth Councillor Imogen Padwick encouraged as many people as possible to stand for election to the Youth Council early in 2014.

In between presentations young talent was showcased when local performers entertained guests.  Also during the evening ‘A young person’s guide to volunteering’ was launched.  This handy wallet contains useful information for young people on volunteering and doubles up as a travelcard wallet.

Councillor Mary Sartin said: “The Epping Forest Youth Council has done a fantastic job in organising this event and I congratulate them all. These groups work very hard, often voluntarily, to provide activities for our young people and they are all to be applauded.”

Councillor Chris Whitbread said: “I am absolutely delighted that so many groups came along to the evening. It was a pleasure to recognise them all officially.”

Councillor Liz Webster said: “This was a wonderful way to celebrate our young people and all those who provide such diverse activities for them throughout the district.”

The groups represented were:

  1. 4th Loughton Guides
  2. Accuro – Loughton Youth Group
  3. The Box
  4. DNA Studios
  5. ELHAP
  6. Epping Forest Community Theatre
  7. Epping Green Youth
  8. Essex Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs
  9. Ignite
  10. Lambourne End
  11. Limes Farm Youth Centre
  12. Loughton Centre for Young People
  13. Loughton Youth Project
  14. National Citizenship Scheme
  15. Red Squirrels Explorer Scouts Unit, Waltham Abbey
  16. The Space
  17. Theydon Youth
  18. WASUP
  19. Way 2000
  20. Youth Bus
  21. Youth Plus
  22. Zinc Youth Theatre

Unable to attend were:

  1. 414 Squadron ACT
  2. Epping Forest South District Scouts
  3. Friday Light – Restore Church
  4. Shotokan Karate
  5. XL Youth

All groups that attended will be able to apply for a small grant of £100 from the council towards their work.

The local performers were:

Amber Maclean and Georgia Edmondson, Stacey and Georgina Cockram and Max Albert.

Apprentices kick start their careers

Written on . Posted in Business, Jobs, Leader, Young people, Your council

9 young apprentices kick started their careers with the opportunity to train, learn and develop whilst earning a wage, starting their 2 year contract on Monday 28 October.

7 of the 9 apprentices will be completing a business administration apprenticeship and 2 will be doing a construction multi-trade apprenticeship, working with our housing repairs team.

Leader Chris Whitbread with apprentices

Leader of the Council, Councillor Chris Whitbread said: “I am very pleased to welcome these 9 apprentices to the council. Young people are the future and I am delighted we are able to invest in them. We are a small council providing a wide range of services and happy to be in a position to offer them this unique opportunity.”

Apprentices

Epping Forest District Council is working in partnership with Epping Forest College and Harlow College to give the apprentices a life changing opportunity to develop their careers.

 

Council pays tribute to former councillors

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Tributes to former councillors, new housing and the Citizens Advice Bureau were on the agenda of Council on Thursday 26 September 2013.

 

Councillors met for the first full meeting of Epping Forest District Council since the death of Councillor Colin Finn. Members showed their respect to Councillor Finn and former Councillor Derek Cousins who also passed away recently by observing a minute’s silence.

Warm tributes were paid to Councillor Finn who represented the residents of Loughton as a county and district councillor. Councillor Mary Sartin, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council led the tributes with Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens and others for a warm, polite and dedicated public servant.

Councillor Anne Grigg also spoke with warmth and affection of former North Weald Councillor Derek Cousins who served as a parish and district councillor until illness intervened.

Chairman Mary Sartin

£800 has been raised by Councillor Mary Sartin for her chairman’s charities with help from councillors and others who attended a garden tea party at her home beside the River Stort in August.

Councillor Sartin spoke with pride of the recent awards for the former Bobbingworth tip which has now received several awards for its transformation into a haven of peace and tranquillity for wildlife and local people. Councillor Sartin also drew attention to the opening of the environmentally friendly Straw Bale Houses at High Ongar which proved their weather proofing in pouring rain, for which more information is available in the chairman’s blog.

Leader Chris Whitbread

Councillor Chris Whitbread reported to councillors on a busy summer in which he has been working with colleagues from across Essex on joint projects and strategies to build economic investment. As a former pupil of St John’s School he was very pleased to attend the opening of the new secondary school in Epping and very impressed by the young people he met. Finally he drew attention to the council’s own steps to recruit young people into its new apprenticeship scheme.

Housing

Housing Portfolio Holder Councillor David Stallan responded to a question from Councillor Stephen Murray by saying he was proud of the council’s steps to restart council house building even though the current plans would not replace the many houses sold under the ‘Right to Buy’ over many years.

Citizens Advice Bureau

Councillor Chris Whitbread (Leader of Council) recommended that members with concerns about the future provision of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) attend a presentation and debate at the next meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Councillor Stephen Murray asked how the council might respond to plans for a centralised CAB service with outreach to the south of the district. Councillor Whitbread noted that Epping Forest District Council provided over £100,000 in funding for the CAB annually and was very aware of the important role it plays supporting local residents.

Health

Councillors across the chamber supported a motion calling on the health authorities to explain the critical reports on Whipps Cross Hospital used by many residents in the south of Epping Forest District. Concerns were also expressed about the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Romford. Representatives of the health authorities will be called before Overview and Scrutiny to account for the failures in care and the measures to rectify the situation.

Accounts

Councillor Antony Watts submitted the Annual Statutory Statement of Accounts 2012/13 for approval. He was pleased to announce that the auditors were happy with the accounts and the council remains a sound financial concern. No significant adjustments or weaknesses were identified and the unqualified reports approving the accounts and the value for money provided by the council will be issued shortly.

Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Syd Stavrou thanked Councillor Watts and the members of the Audit and Governance Committee along with the external auditors and the council’s finance staff for the production of the accounts. She noted that the value of the council’s assets had increased significantly and the outturn on the general fund was almost half a million pounds better than originally anticipated.

However, she also warned of on-going government consultations that could lead to significant cuts in future funding in 2014/15 and 2015/16. She said that difficult decisions would need to be taken going forward in order to protect the council’s financial position.

Elections

Council noted the date of the 2014 local elections has been changed by Parliament to coincide with the European Parliamentary elections on 22 May. Epping Forest District Council has postponed the date of the Annual Council meeting from 20 May to 10 June accordingly.