Councillors discussed the national programme of resettlement and support of Afghan refugees, Council House Building programme, Covid pandemic.
Support of Afghan refugees
Epping Forest District Council is playing its part in the national programme of resettlement and support of Afghan refugees. Responding to a public question at Cabinet meeting on 13 September, Housing Portfolio Holder Councillor Holly Whitbread said that two properties have been identified as potentially suitable and ready for letting in October.
Councillor Whitbread added that EFDC has chosen to offer its own Council housing rather than potentially more expensive private sector alternatives.
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More homes completed
Councillors received updates on the Council House Building programme. Councillor Whitbread reported on the official opening of brand new Phase 3 houses in North Weald. Sixteen further homes are set to be delivered across the district as part of Phase 4.1 between September and November. A further 63 units are expected as part of Phase 4 in coming months.
The Council is looking at ways to reduce its annual insurance bill. The current contract with Zurich Municipal costs in the region of £900,000 a year and the Council will be inviting competitive bids from a range of specialist public sector insurance providers.
The refit of the Civic Offices has been completed on time and within budget. Councillors received a project closure report highlighting the key features and learning points. Council Leader Chris Whitbread commented on the benefits of the project, particularly the investment in new technology which ‘with the benefit of post-covid hindsight’ had been ‘exactly the right thing and sets the council fair for the challenges to come.’
The Covid pandemic also provides the backdrop to the financial planning process from 2022/3 to 2026/7 as the council moves from the immediate impact through to the process of recovery. Announcement of the annual government finance settlement for 2022/3 is not expected until December. A tailored financial planning approach which develops the budget for 2022/3 and updates the Councils 5-year Medium Term Financial Plan to 2027 is proposed with public services delivered in the most sustainable way.
Finance Portfolio Holder councillor John Philip noted the impact of Covid and the financial difficulties it posed for spending in future years. He encouraged fellow cabinet members to work as hard as possible to find further efficiencies as the Council seeks to protect its front-line services.
Council Leader Chris Whitbread said:
The process of transformation and change was continuous as the Council addressed the challenges to come.
He emphasised the relative strength of Epping Forest District Council in comparison to other councils, the benefits of Qualis and assets such as North Weald Airfield. He restated the Council’s commitment to protecting frontline services and keeping tax levels as low as possible.
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