In the first meeting of Epping Forest District Council since the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, councillors stood in silence before offering their own tributes and reminiscences.
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Tributes to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Chairman of Council Mary Sartin said that her passing would leave a large hole in our country but her memory would live on. Council Leader Chris Whitbread reflected on 70 years of the Queen’s reign. Standing in the queue to pay his respects during the lying-in state, Councillor Whitbread recalled his thoughts as he considered the impact on the people of so many nations standing in the queue around him.
Councillor Caroline Pond, speaking on behalf of the Loughton Residents Association also remembered the Queen before giving best wishes for our new King Charles III. Councillor Jon Whitehouse spoke for the Liberal Democrats, of the importance of the Queen in the daily lives of many people and a significant moment in the history of the nation.
Councillor Simon Heap speaking for the Green Party spoke of the aplomb with which the Queen carried out her role. Independent Councillor Stephen Murray quoted the Archbishop of Canterbury before quoting a tribute written by his younger brother.
Air Vice-Marshal David Paul Murray, CVO, OBE, DL ended his service in the RAF within the Royal Household. Councillor Murray quoted his brother who said:
She wasn’t just our monarch. She was our commander in chief. Our boss and our sovereign who we had all sworn allegiance to. As well as being a symbol to the whole nation, she was also a real person, and she was one of the kindest, most informed and genuinely interested people that I ever met. She took her responsibilities, but not herself, so very seriously and she totally devoted herself to our country. A wonderful example to us all, she personified integrity, service and dedication to duty, and she consistently but unobtrusively demonstrated her deep faith in all that she did.
Councillor Alan Lion had the privilege to work for her Majesty. He spoke of the great sadness but also fondness with which he remembered meeting Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House. Councillor Lion remains in contact with many of his former colleagues and spoke of the sadness with which they were enduring their loss.
Other Items at Full Council
Councillor John Philip responded to a public question by Mr Jim Padfield. Councillor Holly Whitbread noted the opening of Spinks House, named after late councillor Don Spinks in Waltham Abbey.
Council Leader Councillor Chris Whitbread provided an update on his work with the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town. He spoke of the partnership working with neighbouring councils and the aspirations for the district developed in the new Corporate Plan.
Councillor Whitbread reminded councillors of the importance of good finances and balancing the budget, a theme taken up by Councillor John Philip, cabinet portfolio holder responsible for finance.
Councillor Philip updated councillors from the report at the previous night’s cabinet. The Council faces a very challenging financial position. Real problems are coming next year. On initial projections there is a £4.2 million gap between income and expenditure. Unknowns such as future inflation, energy costs and government support mean an uncertainty in the forecasts. However, Councillor Philip could be certain that the forecast would keep changing. He wished he could be optimistic but the situation is serious.
Discussion returned to the budget later in the meeting. Following the report from Overview and Scrutiny Chairman, Councillor Helen Kane, Councillor Philip responded to a suggestion that the budget required deep scrutiny by asking all councillors to be more active, not only to scrutinise but also to participate in the development of the budget and not to hold back with any positive ideas or suggestions.
Questions for the cabinet included lesson learnt from recent experience of the refuse and recycling contract, new built council housing, homelessness, tree planting, safer streets scheme and community partners, the energy crisis and warm room, house building, air pollution, and the new London Ultra-Low Emission Zone.
The Annual Report of the Audit and Governance Committee for 2021/22 was noted.
Local Plan Progress
Portfolio holder for the emerging Local Plan, Councillor Nigel Bedford was very pleased to report that the final consultation on main modifications to the emerging Local Plan is moving forward. Officers are working with the government appointed inspector towards launching the six-week consultation by the end of October.
Councillor Bedford was also pleased to recommend the adoption of the Ongar Neighbourhood Plan.
A referendum was held on 8 September 2022 on the Ongar Neighbourhood Plan Area with the question ‘‘Do you want Epping Forest District Council to use the Neighbourhood Plan for Ongar to help it decide planning applications in the Neighbourhood Area?’’
Councillors formally ‘made’ the plan, meaning it is now adopted. It will form part of the statutory development plan and sit alongside Epping Forest District’s Local Plan. Decisions on planning applications will be made using both the Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan, and any other material considerations.
The meeting concluded with the presentation of two remarkable historical artifacts – an original invitation to the laying of the memorial stone of Tower Bridge and an invitation to the visit of Her Majesty Queen Victoria to Epping Forest on Saturday 6 May 1882. The coronation of His Majesty King Charles III was by coincidence announced for Saturday 6 May 2023 earlier in the day.
The invitations will be placed on display in the Chairman’s office.
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