Following the local elections in May, councillors are getting used to new roles and responsibilities.
Cabinet 6 June
A new-look Cabinet met for the first time on 6 June. With Councillor Darshan Sunger leaving the Cabinet to become Vice-Chairman of the Council, Council Leader Chris Whitbread has expanded his team and reallocated portfolio responsibilities.
Councillor Whitbread has appointed Councillors Ken Williamson and Alan Lion to work alongside the established team. The new cabinet portfolios are:
- Leader – Cllr Chris Whitbread
- Place and Deputy Leader – Cllr Nigel Bedford
- Finance – Cllr John Philip
- Housing & Community – Cllr Holly Whitbread
- Wellbeing & Community Partnerships – Cllr Aniket Patel
- Customer – Cllr Alan Lion
- Contracts & Commissioning – Cllr Nigel Avey
- Technical Services – Cllr Ken Williamson
- Internal Resource – Cllr Sam Kane
- Reviews & Efficiency – Cllr Les Burrows
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Overview and Scrutiny
There is also a new look to Overview and Scrutiny. The committee held its first post-election meeting on 16 June with Helen Kane as its new Chairman. Councillor Kane’s move on to O&S follows two very successful years as Chairman of the Council. Long-standing Councillor David Wixley joins Councillor Kane on the top table as Vice-Chairman of O&S.
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Leader sets Cabinet agenda for the year
Sound finances are central to the Council’s plans. Attending Overview and Scrutiny was Councillor Chris Whitbread to set out the Cabinet agenda for the forthcoming year.
Key among the issues facing the district will be the cost of living crisis, as the country deals with the continuing consequences of the war in Ukraine and the aftermath of the Covid Pandemic.
Epping Forest District Council has already made significant savings while maintaining front-line services. Councillor Whitbread will be asking his cabinet to find more efficiencies as the Council strives to retain the lowest Council Tax in Essex.
Climate Change remains high on the agenda, as the Council works toward carbon neutrality. Qualis, the Council’s wholly-owned group of companies, is moving forward with the development of new homes, car-parking and a brand-new leisure centre for Epping. Further housing developments are being brought forward by Qualis at Roundhills, Waltham Abbey and Pyrles Lane, Loughton.
The Council is also pushing forward with the construction of more brand-new council houses. The capital programme also budgets for major improvements to existing homes on Limes Farm and other housing estates.
Improvements to services
Commercial property investments will continue to grow as the Council maximises income to protect front-line services and minimise Council Tax.
The Council will continue to work with key partners, Biffa (waste collection and recycling), Places Leisure (leisure centres), Essex Police (including district council-funded officers) as well as Qualis.
The Council continues to push towards the adoption of the Local Plan which is about more than homes – jobs are also important. To this end, Councillor Whitbread highlighted the North Weald Masterplan, set to become a magnet for jobs and opportunity.
Central government’s levelling-up policy is bringing devolution back onto the agenda. Councillor Whitbread is working with neighbouring Essex and Hertfordshire Councils to find common areas of interest and improvements to services across the board.
Epping Forest District Council has evolved and adapted. Agile working and hybrid meetings have transformed the way the Council works. However, Councillor Chris Whitbread acknowledged the danger of some residents being left behind by the transformation process. He has brought Councillor Lion and Councillor Williamson into the Cabinet to ensure basic standards of service such as answering the phone are not lost in the drive for new ways of communicating.
Overview and Scrutiny also appointed chairmen and membership of the new select committees:
• Chairman: Cllr Jeane Lea
• Vice-Chairman: Cllr Jodie Lucas
• Chairman: Cllr Jaymey McIvor
• Vice-Chairman: Cllr Smruti Patel
• Chairman: Cllr Ray Balcombe
• Vice-Chairman: Cllr Ronda Pugsley
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