Report from Full Council on 17 December 2019.
At the last meeting of Full Council before Christmas, Councillors and staff stood in silence to remember schoolboy Harley Watson.
Epping Forest District Council Chairman Richard Bassett had placed flowers on behalf of the Council and District at the gates of Debden Park School. He spoke of the moving conversations he had shared with other parents at Debden Park and the written messages left by others.
No increase in councillors’ allowance
Councillors voted to freeze their basic allowance for another year. The allowance remains at £4,300 for 2020/21. Stephen Lye, independent chairman of the Council’s Remuneration Panel presented the report.
While Epping Forest District Council had not increased the allowance to members for some years, other councils have. Consequently, Mr Lye said that the allowances paid to Epping Forest District Councillors is increasingly falling to the lower end compared to other councils.
Councillor moving to new ‘Green Benches’
Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council led congratulations for Councillor Gagan Mohindra elected Member of Parliament for the constituency of South West Hertfordshire. He went on to describe meetings of leaders across Essex to ensure all Brexit preparations are in place for the end of January, before outlining latest progress on the Council budget for 2020/21 and the Accommodation Review.
Transport for London
Councillor Nigel Avey met with Transport for London (TfL). He reported on discussions concerning changes to the local timetable including a temporary reduction in the number trains until upgrades are completed after 2030. There will be fewer trains to Epping although a more frequent service from Loughton.
Councillor Avey said that he did not think the changes would go down well with residents and he is calling on TfL to explain themselves to councillors at Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Responding later to a question from Councillor Michael Owen, he described the proposed delays in new rolling stock as ‘dreadful’ but regretfully added that the council had no powers to compel TfL to bring forward the schedule.
Loughton High Road
Councillor Aniket Patel was proud to announce the successful purchase of commercial and residential properties in Loughton High Road, contributing to the long-term rental income in support of council services.
Councillor Holly Whitbread confirmed that the official opening of James Court, a new development of houses and flats in Loughton has been rescheduled to avoid clashing with the General Election Purdah restrictions.
Councillors expressed disappointment at the decision by Broxbourne Borough Council to close Lowewood Museum. Epping Forest District Council has therefore withdrawn from the current arrangement to manage the museum on behalf of Broxbourne. Councillor Nigel Bedford said it was a sad decision but it was Broxbourne’s decision, not Epping Forest’s.
Councillor Avey confirmed the council’s car parks are free on the weekends leading up to Christmas, after Councillor Chris Whitbread assured all members of the commitment to supporting local business. Councillor Avey also confirmed a number of car park issues including tariffs and electric charging points will be reviewed in March.
Councillors supported comments to maximise the number of new trees being planted by the council.
Councillor Stephen Murray mentioned 4 of the district’s most important voluntary organisations in asking all councillors to endorse a motion of support:
- Citizens Advice Bureau – heavily financially supported by the council and employing some 60 volunteers
- Epping Forest Foodbank – also supported financially by the council, employing more than 70 volunteers and growing from its beginning in Loughton through expansion to Epping and most recently Waltham Abbey
- Parent Teacher Associations across the district – many parents raising money increasingly for essential items of education
- Loughton Voluntary Care
Epping Forest Foodbank
Following further debate, a second motion by Councillor Holly Whitbread was approved to grant Epping Forest Foodbank an additional £1,500 over the festive period to support local families. The Council also agreed to provide premises for the Foodbank in Waltham Abbey while the extra money comes on top of £5,000 already agreed.
Speaking to the motion, Councillor Murray made special mention of Epping Forest District Council employees who have provided particular support to the Foodbank.
Armed Forces Champions
Councillors Jeane Lea, Brian Rolfe and Stephen Murray have been appointed Armed Forces Champions for the remainder of the 2019/20 Municipal Year. Although asked to appoint 2 members, councillors agreed that the 3 nominations were so strong, that the rules should be amended to allow all 3 councillors to be appointed.