Council progress report to Scrutiny

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Council Leader Chris Whitbread set out progress on a number of key Council initiatives for Overview and Scrutiny on Monday 29 October. Major steps forward include internal reorganisation of the Council’s top management structure, new homes for local people through the council house building programme and the culmination of a year of major investment in leisure facilities with the imminent opening of the brand new Waltham Abbey Leisure Centre.

Thanks to prudent financial planning, effective management and maximisation of assets, Epping Forest District Council is in a stronger financial position than many councils. Councillors of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee received the latest progress report on services from Council Leader Chris Whitbread.

£2.5m savings

The Council has a savings target of £2.5m over the next three years as government grants are phased out while protecting frontline services and keeping Council Tax low.

The first new council houses have been completed with many more now in the pipeline.

Restructure

Senior management has been restructured with two Strategic Directors and eight Service leads tasked with focusing on the customer and driving efficiency through bringing business support functions together.

Councillor Whitbread said that the Council is committed to promoting ‘flexible smarter working’ for staff and redeveloping the rear of the Civic Office site. While listing has delayed changes to the Civic Offices, options are to be discussed by December Cabinet.

Good progress on ICT is supporting customer access to Council services and allowing staff to work in flexible more efficient ways.

Epping Forest District Local Plan

The Local Plan is back on track.   Judicial Review caused frustrating delay and uncertainty but the plan is now submitted for examination next year.

Leisure in the district

The Council’s partnership with Places for People has delivered £12 million of improvements including the opening of the new Waltham Abbey Leisure Centre in a few weeks’ time. Council assets are helping to deliver community and economic benefits.  Epping Forest Shopping Park is trading well and the Council is now in position to take forward St John’s Road, Epping potentially including another new leisure centre.

Finance

Whilst Council Tax was frozen for many years, an increase of 2.5% this year to fund extra police officers dedicated to the district is proving very successful.

Preparation of the 2019/20 budget starts in earnest shortly with positive bids for extra services such as investment in public car parks being looked at by Cabinet and Overview and Scrutiny in January.