Council Tax Benefit change is coming

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Consultation, Council tax, Epping, Housing, Loughton, Ongar, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

A new scheme called Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) will replace Council Tax Benefit from the 1 April 2013. This new support scheme will be different from the current Council Tax Benefit scheme and is not so generous.

Local Council Tax Support poster
Local Council Tax Support poster

This scheme applies only to people of working age. People of pension age will continue to have their LCTS calculated in the same way as they currently have their Council Tax Benefit calculated.

Although the Government has introduced the LCTS scheme, they have reduced the funding that we receive and therefore we have had to reduce the amount of help that we can give working age people towards their Council Tax.

Changes from 1 April 2013

If you currently do not pay any Council Tax you will now have to pay something.

If you already pay Council Tax after your benefit entitlement has been deducted you will have to pay more than you have previously towards your Council Tax.

Council Tax Support will fall by over £1 million in Epping Forest.

If you have questions about this new scheme, come along to one of our Local Council Tax Support surgeries where you can talk to our Benefit and Council Tax team about the scheme and the payment options available to you.

Local Council Tax Support surgeries

  • Monday 25 February 2013
    Debden, Little Oaks Children’s Centre, IG10 3TD – 1.30pm to 3.30pm
  • Tuesday 26 February 2013
    Waltham Abbey, Waltham Abbey Town Hall, EN9 1DE – 9.30am to 12.30pm
  • Wednesday 27 February 2013
    Chigwell, The Limes Centre, IG7 5LP – 9.30am to 4.30pm
  • Friday 1 March 2013
    Ongar, Ongar Adult Community Learning, CM5 0GA – 9.30am to 11.30am
  • Monday 4 March 2013
    Buckhurst Hill, Little Buddies Children’s Centre, IG9 5ES – 2pm to 4pm
  • Wednesday 6 March 2013
    Epping, Epping Forest District Council Offices, CM16 4BZ – 9.30am to 3.30pm
  • Thursday 14 March 2013
    Waltham Abbey, Hazelwood Children’s Centre, EN9 3EL – 12.30pm to 3pm

Love our British birds on Valentines Day

Written on . Posted in Animal welfare, Arts, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Environmental health, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Olympics, Ongar, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Travel, Trees and landscapes, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your environment

National Nest Box Week is great for birds. Starting on 14 February, St Valentine’s Day, it’s the time we remind ourselves to provide homes for dozens of species, from Blue Tits to Barn Owls.

Nesting Blue Tit
Nesting Blue Tit

The natural nest sites on which many of our bird species depend, such as holes in trees and buildings, are fast disappearing as gardens and woods are ‘tidied’ and old houses are repaired.

National Nest Box Week was launched in 1997 and since then thousands of enthusiastic naturalists across the UK have put up boxes to compensate for this loss. It is estimated that there are now 5 to 6 million boxes in gardens across the UK.

Whether you’re a family with space for a box in your garden, a teacher, a member of a local wildlife group, or you belong to a bird club and could organise a work party, National Nest Box Week gives you the chance to contribute to the conservation effort in the UK whilst giving you the pleasure of observing any breeding birds that you attract to your garden.

Build a nest box

If you’ve never built a nest box before, why not give it a go this year? Or if you haven’t got the time, it’s easy to buy one. Go on, give Britain’s birds a valentines day gift this year!

Making your own nest box

If you want more information about nests and nest boxes, contact nnbw@bto.org.

Financial assistance to help you improve your home

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Building control, Business, Chigwell, Commercial properties, Epping, Grants, Housing, Housing repairs, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Planning, Private housing, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your community, Your home, Your money

Do you know that Epping Forest District Council offers financial assistance and grants to home owners and private tenants?

We may be able to assist if you need house repairs, energy efficiency works, or adaptations to your home because you are disabled. We also offer assistance to home owners wanting to bring an empty home back into use.

Financial assistance to help you improve your home

The types of financial assistance available include

  • disabled facilities grants up to £30,000
  • decent homes repayable assistance up to £10,000
  • small works repayable assistance up to £3,000
  • empty homes repayable assistance up to £10,000

Find out more

Full details of the eligibility criteria, and how you can apply, are available from the Private Sector Grants Team

  • email PSHGrantsandCare@eppingforestdc.gov.uk
  • phone 01992 564092
  • write to – Private Sector Grants Team, Housing Directorate, Epping Forest District Council, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ

Information Service Partnership

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Community, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your home, Your money

Visitors to Epping Forest District Council’s Information Centres in Loughton and Waltham Abbey will find new arrangements in place. Under the terms of a new arrangement with Essex County Council, information about the District Council will be made available via libraries in Waltham Abbey, Loughton, Chipping Ongar and Buckhurst Hill.

District Council information is now available at librariesThe new arrangement is set to benefit residents and both councils. Access to information about Epping Forest District Council will become more widely available with later opening on week-nights and access on Saturdays. The District Council will also make savings on accommodation and staff costs.

Essex County Council will receive a regular income for providing the service as well as a potential increase in residents visiting and making use of other core library services.

The District Council will continue to manage its own main information and reception desk at the Civic Offices in Epping. Cash payments to Epping Forest District Council at Waltham Abbey Town Hall are expected to transfer to Waltham Abbey Library later in the year following the installation of a special kiosk.

Councillor Hal Ulkun, Support Services Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: “I am delighted to announce this new partnership with Essex County Council. Money is tight for everyone and it makes great financial sense for both Epping Forest District and Essex County Council to co-operate by reducing costs and providing services more efficiently together. Even more importantly, people rely more than ever on access to council services during tough economic times. Working together we can enhance services in Ongar and Buckhurst Hill, too.”

Library staff received training in December. They will be able to act as an advice and signposting service for residents to Epping Forest District Council services. Residents will also be able to access District Council services via library-based computers with the assistance of library staff and contact staff at the main District Council offices via dedicated phones in each of the four libraries.

Other local District Council services such as the Broadway Housing Office and Limes Farm Community Hall in Chigwell will continue to provide specialist services as normal.

Councillor Ulkun added: “With modern technology we can use electronic links, backed up by good old-fashioned methods such as the District Council ‘Messenger’ collecting and delivering post between the District in Epping and the libraries in Loughton, Waltham Abbey, Ongar and Buckhurst Hill. Library staff are already experts in searching and providing information for residents. Many of our older and more vulnerable residents are especially reliant on the information service and I am very confident the libraries will continue the fine traditions of service previously provided by our own staff.”

County Councillor Jeremy Lucas Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Environment and Culture said: “I am very pleased to add Epping Forest District Council to the growing list of partners who are sharing space in our libraries for the benefit of their local community. Libraries should remain the hub of communities and Essex County Council is always keen to discuss ways of working with partners to find savings while improving services to our residents.”

Learning with Countrycare

Written on . Posted in Arts, Buckhurst Hill, Chairman, Chigwell, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Councillors, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Doing business with the council, Epping, Health, Loughton, Ongar, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Planning, Playschemes, Procurement, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Uncategorized, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

Countrycare launches environmental education service to show young people the value of the green spaces and wildlife around them.

The Countrycare team is offering an environmental education service to schools that can work with their curriculum, in both science and arts, to help engage young people with the environment. Environmental education sessions can be run on Local Nature Reserves, in classrooms or in school grounds, and we cater for all ages.

We want young people to grow up not just enjoying the countryside but respecting it as well.

Learning with Countrycare

We offer a range of projects including

  • Creating wildlife sanctuaries in school grounds
  • Building bird boxes
  • Practical projects on Local Nature Reserves
  • Tree ecology
  • Tree planting
  • Invertebrate identification
  • Guided walks

If none of these activities fit in with your syllabus we can mould lessons to fit your needs.

Find out more

Download the brochure Learning with Countrycare (pdf 1MB)

For more information about the environmental education service at Countrycare and the competitive costs call 01992 788203 or email contactcountrycare@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

Find out what other work Countrycare does the website at http://www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/

You can also follow Countrycare on Twitter at https://twitter.com/EFcountrycare/

Countrycare volunteer day Tuesday 22 January cancelled

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Building control, Chigwell, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Olympics, Ongar, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Planning, Residents, Trees and landscapes, Uncategorized, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your environment, Your home

Due to the adverse weather the Countrycare volunteer day on Tuesday 22 January 2013 has been cancelled.

Countrycare is sorry to disappoint those of you who were intending to jump in a pond and clear some reeds tomorrow in North Weald, but the task has been cancelled due to weather conditions. We apologise to anyone who had been looking forward to an ice cold dip. Thursday’s volunteer task is still expected to go ahead.

Record year for Countrycare volunteers

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Countrycare, Countryside and wildlife, Environmental health, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Our activities, Our countryside, Out and about, Residents, Volunteering opportunities, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

2012 proved to be a record year for the number of volunteers attending the Countrycare Thursday working parties. For the first time ever the equivalent of over 700 volunteer days were worked during a year.

The volunteers were made up by a core team of 30, and a further 20 volunteers who came to help out on special projects. A total of 51 working days were organised, working out to be an average of 14 volunteers each day.

Countrycare volunteers at Nazeing Triangle LNR

With this number of people attending regularly Countrycare was able to tackle more ambitious work and increase the amount of management work carried out on the 9 Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) and the many other Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) in the district.

The work carried included woodland, grassland and pond management. The volunteers worked tirelessly in all weathers to help Countrycare achieve its aims. The Countrycare Team would like to express their gratitude for the effort and enthusiasm that the volunteers put in week in week out. They hope to continue to see such a good turn out on all of its Thursday tasks in 2013.Countrycare volunteer days for 2007 to 2012 - 2007 505 - 2008 571 - 2009 539 - 2010 603 - 2011 642 - 2012 733

Housing Allocations Scheme review and new Tenancy Policy consultation

Written on . Posted in Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Consultation, Epping, Housing, Housing repairs, Loughton, Ongar, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Your community, Your home

The council is seeking views on its draft revised Housing Allocations Scheme and new draft Tenancy Policy.

Housing Allocations Scheme

The council operates a housing register. This is a list of ‘homeseekers’ who are waiting to be offered a council or housing association property. We are required by law to have a Housing Allocations Scheme for

  • deciding priorities and the procedure to be followed in selecting homeseekers for council accommodation, or
  • nominating homeseekers for housing association accommodation

The council’s current scheme has not been reviewed since its introduction in December 2010 (although it was amended in September 2012 to take account of new Armed Forces Regulations). This was due to new Government guidance that we were waiting for. The guidance was issued in July 2012 and it gives councils the power to decide how accommodation should be allocated, based on local priorities. Allocations can now be made in any way the council sees fit, but the scheme must be both legal and rational.

Tenancy Policy

Social housing providers (such as councils and housing associations) must now publish clear and accessible tenancy policies. They must outline their approach to tenancy management, including actions to sustain tenancies, prevent unnecessary evictions and tackle tenancy fraud. The policy should explain how the needs of vulnerable people are taken into account, and how advice and assistance will be provided.

Our draft Tenancy Policy also sets out

  • the lengths and types of tenancies, and the circumstances under which a particular type will be granted
  • how applicants or tenants can appeal against decisions that we make
  • discretionary rights to succeed to a tenancy

The Council’s Housing Scrutiny Member Panel has considered both documents and our Tenants and Leaseholders Federation is being consulted. The final draft documents will be considered by the cabinet on 15 April 2013. If you would like to comment on the draft revised Housing Allocations Scheme, or the draft Tenancy Policy, please write to:

The Assistant Director of Housing (Operations), Epping Forest District Council, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ.

You can also phone our housing consultation hotline 01992 564762 (24 hour answerphone) or email housinginfo@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

Information

The information you need can be found in the following documents

Responses are needed by Thursday 14 March 2013. The Council’s Cabinet and Housing Portfolio Holder will then consider the results of this consultation. When approved, the new scheme and policy will come into force on 1 July 2013.

One Business Briefing – brimming with news for local businesses

Written on . Posted in Abandoned vehicles, Animal welfare, Buckhurst Hill, Building control, Business, Business rates, Chigwell, Commercial properties, Community, Conservation and listed buildings, Doing business with the council, Drainage, Energy efficiency, Epping, Grants, Gypsy and traveller, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Loughton, Media, Older people, Olympics, Ongar, Planning, Regulations, Residents, Supporting business, Travel, Trees and landscapes, Uncategorized, Waltham Abbey, Working with the council, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment

The January 2013 edition of ‘One Business Briefing’ is now available.

In this edition Reed in Partnership gives local businesses advice on how they can use Government funding to get staff job relevant qualifications at no cost to the employer or employee. It also introduces MP Eleanor Laing’s new Business Forum, reports on current tourism development work, including a key event on 31 January 2013 to develop tourism within the area and much more.

Read the January 2013 edition – One Business Briefing

Produced by Epping Forest District Council, One Epping Forest and local partners the briefing provides information for businesses and those looking to start up in business in the Epping Forest district. The briefing is designed to report on business funding opportunities / access to finance, business support, workshops / events for business, town centre news and other local economic development initiatives.

If you would like to receive future editions of ‘One Business Briefing’ by email please email economicdevelopment@eppingforestdc.gov.uk.

Benefit cap changes

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Epping, Housing, Loughton, Ongar, Private housing, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your home, Your money

From April 2013 there will be a ‘cap’ or maximum limit on the total amount of benefit that people of working age can receive. Households will have income capped to £500 per week for families and £350 for single people.

The Government will add up how much money you get from a range of benefits including housing benefit and if the total comes to more than the maximum amount allowed your housing benefit payments will be reduced to bring the total income in line with the applicable cap.

How will this affect me?

If your benefits are capped this will mean you may have to pay more towards your rent than you do currently. This is a really important change because if you get behind with your rent you may risk losing your home.
The cap will not apply if you, or your partner or any children you are responsible for, and who live with you, are entitled to working tax credit or receive any of the following

There will be a period where the cap will not be applied for 39 weeks for those who have been continuously in work for the previous 12 months.

The cap will apply to the combined income from: