Council Tax freeze agreed by cabinet

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Council Tax freeze, new homes and disabled toilets were on the agenda when Epping Forest District Council’s cabinet met on Monday 4 February 2013.

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Council Tax Frozen

There will be no increase in the Council Tax precept set by Epping Forest District Council if the recommendations of the cabinet are accepted by all councillors when the budgets are set later in February. The annual charge for a Band D property will remain the same for the third year in succession at £148.77.

Cabinet agreed the recommendations to full council despite further decreases in Government grant thanks in part to a number of savings reducing the next financial year’s ongoing revenue budget target to £14.37 million.

Councillor Syd Stavrou Finance Portfolio Holder emphasised Epping Forest District was and would remain a ‘low-tax’ council for the long term.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of the Council described the report as a ‘good news budget’ with £800,000 of savings coming mostly from ‘back offices’, no enforced redundancies, and fees and charges such as car park pay and display prices kept down. He acknowledged challenges ahead but remained upbeat about the council’s prospects.

After the meeting, Councillor Stavrou said: “At the current time with money so tight, it has never been so important to support local business and keep costs down for hard working local residents. Each member of the cabinet has played an important part in examining all service costs to reduce spending wherever possible while continuing to protect local services. Working with staff, we have found many new and better ways to deliver services without cutting quality and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the process.”

Obsolete bedsits to be converted to new homes

Marden Close, a scheme of 20 bedsit flats developed for older residents in the 1960s is to be converted into 10 modern one-bedroom flats. The vacant buildings had previously proved very unpopular and difficult to let. Cabinet favoured retaining Marden Close rather than pursuing earlier options to transfer it to a social housing landlord. Proposals also found favour with cabinet for the lease of Faversham Hall to Chigwell Parish Council. East Thames Housing Group will project manage the conversions. Works could start on site within 6 months.

Councillors welcomed the scheme which will create much needed accommodation for people on the housing waiting list.

North Weald consultants appointed

Drivers Jonas Deloitte has been appointed to take forward the review of North Weald Airfield. The £145,000 brief is expected to make recommendations for consideration by councillors for the future of the airfield.

Council to fund CAB debt advisors

Cabinet agreed £67,000 to Epping Forest Citizens’ Advice Bureau for the appointment of 2 full-time debt advisors. The funding will cover 2 18 month contracts to begin in April. The agreement includes a commitment from the CAB to support residents through the Limes Centre in Chigwell. This funding is additional money to support homelessness prevention over and above the council’s regular CAB funding of more than £100,000 a year.

Better disabled toilet facilities for Epping and Buckhurst Hill

The accessible superloo currently provided in Bakers Lane Epping is set to be relocated to Buckhurst Hill once a major refurbishment of the Bakers Lane public toilet block has been completed. Cabinet approved additional expenditure of £85,000 for Bakers Lane and £21,000 towards relocating the superloo. The improvements are expected to be especially welcomed by people with disabilities who will find accessibility much improved through the initiative.

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