Climate Change and Covid recovery, two of the greatest challenges facing local residents, dominated discussions between members of Epping Forest District Council at Cabinet and Scrutiny.
Pressure on Council Tax
For two years, the financial impact of Covid has been well managed within Epping Forest District Council’s resources. However, as councillors started to consider next year’s budget and the medium-term financial plan at the latest Cabinet, Finance Portfolio Holder John Philip spelt out the impact of Covid on future years.
Income is down and expenses have increased despite many steps to mitigate the impact of Covid. A £1.5m gap between projected income and expenditure next year needs to be bridged. Epping Forest District Council has increased Council Tax only once in the last ten years – in a special measure to fund additional police officers in the district. The Council is doing all it can to protect residents from a Council Tax rise in 2022 but acknowledges the major financial challenge all public sector organisations are facing next year.
As councillors do all they can to protect people’s pockets. Cabinet Portfolio Holders and Service Directors have been tasked with going through all the Council’s budgets over the next few weeks to see how further efficiencies can be found, front-line public services protected, and the economic recovery of the district sustained.
Most if not all councils have been similarly affected by the financial impact of Covid on income and the implications for local services. All councils are also coming to grips with the reality of climate change and its long-term implications. Epping Forest District Council has set a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. Members at the most recent meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee received the latest report on sustainable transport and the Council’s Climate Change Action Plan which is currently out to consultation.
Carbon, methane and other gases produced through the burning of fossil fuels and agriculture have already created a measurable increase in average global temperatures. Scientists believe we are already seeing more extreme weather events as a consequence. The Arctic and Antarctic ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising to flood coastal areas. Hotter summers and wetter winters are expected in south-east England.
Local production of green-house gasses comes to a large extent from travel and energy to heat our homes and businesses. Some agricultural practices also contribute large quantities of atmospheric pollution.
As world leaders plan to meet in Glasgow for the COP 26 Climate Change Conference, Epping Forest District Council is consulting local residents and businesses on how individual actions by local people can play a significant part in combatting climate change.
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