“As the new decade begins, Epping Forest has achieved its goal of the lowest Council Tax in Essex and enters the 2020s with a bold vision for the district’s future,” says Council Leader Chris Whitbread.
We now have the lowest Council Tax in Essex after councillors agreed another freeze. Residents of an average Band D property will continue to pay only £152.46 for district council services for another year.
We achieved a Council Tax freeze again this year, against a background of increases from Essex County Council, Essex Police, Essex Fire and Rescue and many town and parish councils.
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Bold, ambitious plans
After presenting his budget to councillors on Tuesday 25 February Councillor Chris Whitbread said:
Our residents face many challenges and should benefit from the good financial governance and performance when it comes to their local council.
Bold and ambitious plans are necessary to maintain public services and investment in our district. This is the start of an exciting new phase for Epping Forest District Council. Commercial development income increasingly pays for public services as we keep Council Tax down.
The development of the Epping Forest Shopping Park is bringing in about £3m a year. The £23m purchase of shops and flats at Centric Parade in Loughton High Road will provide more income and development opportunities.
Qualis, our new Local Authority Development Company, will open up even greater opportunities for the council to maximise its assets and manage its properties more efficiently.
Epping Forest district now receives little or no central government funding. However, with bold, ambitious plans supported by talented people, we have frozen our share of the Council Tax yet again while ensuring the best possible future for our district.
Investment in the district
Ambitious and far reaching targets were part of our medium-term plans as we set our budget for 2020/21. Investment in new homes, commercial property and community projects such as a new leisure centre and cinema for Epping are part of the multi-million pound budget.
Long term protection of the environment and local plans to combat climate change are key measures. New council housing will be built to the highest environmental standards as we work to reduce our overall carbon footprint. A travel plan and new ways of working will see our staff much less dependent on their cars. Works to the Civic Offices will create a more efficient and customer-focused headquarters for the organisation.
Councillor Whitbread added:
Pay and Display car parking charges are also frozen. We are taking back control of the Highway Rangers. In addition to funding from the County Council we are also providing additional support for the Local Highways Panel.
Financial independence is key to the council strategy. Income from its new wholly-owned development company Qualis, is expected to generate more income than Council Tax for council services within the next 5 years.
Councillor Whitbread added:
We will continue to support 3 additional police officers targeted by ourselves who are now an integral part of the Community Wellbeing Team.
There was a moment of great sadness as colleagues and friends remembered David Barrett. Chairman of Council, Councillor Richard Bassett invited members to stand for a minute silence in tribute to the memory of David, a former Housing Manager who passed away following a long illness on 12 January. Councillors shared their heartfelt wishes of condolence for his loved ones.
We have completed the recruitment of a new senior management team. Following the appointment of Georgina Blakemore as Chief Executive last year, we have 3 new senior managers:
- Nick Dawe – Chief Operating Officer
- Andrew Small – Strategic Director
- Sacha Jevans – Strategic Director
All 3 will report directly to Georgina Blakemore.
The roles of Strategic Director were previously held on a temporary basis. Together with the new Chief Operating Officer these permanent roles will be instrumental in delivering our vision of the district as a great place to live, work, study and do business.
Police, fire and crime commissioner briefing
Councillor Bedford relayed information received from Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst at a briefing session. The good news is that crime activity is down in the Epping Forest area.
Violent crime and drug related crime are the focus for the year ahead.
Motions at Full Council
Council bans sky lanterns
Councillors agreed to ban the release of sky lanterns and helium filled balloons on council owned land and decided to appeal to the government to actively consider a general ban for their negative environmental and biological impact.
Guidelines on antisemitism
Councillors agreed a motion proposed by Council Leader Chris Whitbread, to condemn all forms of racism and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) guidelines which define manifestations of antisemitism – prompting a lively debate and discussion.
Council Tax amounts
As well as setting our own budgets and 0% increase in Council Tax, we also noted the amounts to be raised and collected on behalf of Essex County Council, Essex Police, Essex Fire and Rescue and local Town and Parish Councils.
Council Tax details for where you live – Council Tax precepts 2021 (pdf 126KB)