Agenda, decisions and minutes

Cabinet
Thursday, 11th June, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Online meeting using Zoom

Contact: A. Hendry (Democratic Services)  Tel: (01992) 564246 Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

15.

Webcasting Introduction

This meeting is to be webcast and Members are reminded of the need to activate their microphones before speaking.

 

The Chairman will read the following announcement:

 

“I would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the Internet and will be capable of subsequent repeated viewing, with copies of the recording being made available for those that request it.

 

By being present at this meeting, it is likely that the recording cameras will capture your image and this will result in your image becoming part of the broadcast.

 

You should be aware that this may infringe your human and data protection rights. If you have any concerns then please speak to the Webcasting Officer.

 

Please could I also remind Members to activate their microphones before speaking.”

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader of Council made a short address to remind everyone present that the meeting would be broadcast live to the internet, and would be capable of repeated viewing, which could infringe their human and data protection rights.

 

 

16.

Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any item on this agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest pursuant to the Council’s Code of Member Conduct.

 

 

17.

Reports of Portfolio Holders

To receive oral reports from Portfolio Holders on current issues concerning their Portfolios, which are not covered elsewhere on this agenda and a verbal update on the Coronavirus situation

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Environmental and Technical Services Portfolio Holder, Councillor Avey noted that as part of the post Covid recovery programme, as from Monday, 15th June all Council car parks would have a starting rate of 20pence for the first two and a half hours and after that the standard parking rate would apply.

 

The Planning and Sustainability Portfolio Holder, Councillor Bedford, thanked Councillor Avey for the works that have just started at the Ongar swimming pool, putting in new pool heating equipment and repairing the roof while the centre was closed because of the current lockdown. A budget of £1.5 million had been set-a-side for this and any money left over would be used to refurbish the centre and bring it up to standard.

 

The Leader commented that we have had two good bits of news this evening for local residents and businesses, and he would like once again like to add his thanks to officers who have had to react very quickly to rapidly changing circumstances while getting on with their day job, and bringing forward work such as the Ongar Leisure Centre.

 

The Commercial and Regulatory Services Portfolio Holder, Councillor Patel gave an update on the Covid 19 recovery advisory group. Group leaders have been asked to provide a member to sit on this advisory group. He advised that their first meeting would be on 15th June. They would be looking to establish terms of reference and looking to provide a short to medium term response. Advice from the government was coming in daily and also changing rapidly and they would have to keep abreast of this, while liaising with local businesses etc. The lead officer would be Andrew Small, and they hoped to meet regularly through July, leading to looking at a more longer-term strategy being developed.

 

Councillor Murray asked that as an independent councillor, could he be copied into the paperwork of these meetings so that he could provide any necessary, local background knowledge.

 

 

18.

Public Questions and Requests to Address the Cabinet

To receive any questions submitted by members of the public and any requests to address the Cabinet.

 

(a)        Public Questions

 

To answer questions asked by members of the public after notice in accordance with the provisions contained within Part 4 of the Constitution (Council Rules, Rule Q3) on any matter in relation to which the Cabinet has powers or duties or which affects the District.

 

(b)       Requests to Address the Cabinet

 

Any member of the public or a representative of another organisation may address the Cabinet on any agenda item (except those dealt with in private session as exempt or confidential business) due to be considered at the meeting, in accordance with the provisions contained within Article 7 of the Constitution (The Executive, Paragraphs 27 and 28).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet noted that no public questions or requests to address the Cabinet had been received for consideration at the meeting.

 

 

19.

Overview and Scrutiny

To consider any matters of concern to the Cabinet arising from the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny function and to identify any matters that the Cabinet would like the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to examine as part of its work programme.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet noted that the first meeting of the year for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee would be held on Monday 22 June 2020.

 

 

20.

Review of Service Charges pdf icon PDF 386 KB

(Leader) To consider the attached report (C-004-2020-21).

 

Additional documents:

Decision:

(1)       The Cabinet noted the requirement to carry out a full review of service charges across the District;

(2)       The Cabinet agreed to receive a further paper in September to agree the proposals on introducing a fair and consistent approach to service charges for tenants living in blocks; and

(3)       The Cabinet approved the development of a new scheme ‘more than bricks and mortar’  ‘EFDC Creating great places where people want to live’.

 

 

Minutes:

The Housing and Community Services Portfolio Holder introduced the report on the review of service charges.

 

She noted that the Council charged for additional services to tenants living in blocks of flats based on a CPI yearly increase. An example of these services were the cleaning of blocks and communal utility costs such as electricity for lighting. 

 

This approach had become challenging for most organisations over the years as some costs had risen above the rate of CPI.  A recent analysis, by Housing Management of cost against income had ascertained that the under recovery of service charges stood at £1.3m for EFDC 2019/20. Most organisations have changed their approach and charge for the actual cost of services. 

 

Councils were now subject to rent regulations via the Regulator for Social Housing. The Regulations clearly state that social housing providers need to charge for services in a fair and consistent way which could be accounted for.  This translates to charging the actual cost for the services broken down to each individual property.  From a legal standpoint this protected the council from challenge regarding fair and accurate charging.

 

Any increase in service charge needed to be approached with care and compassion; as such a further paper would be presented to Cabinet in September setting out the options.

 

It was proposed that income raised (over and above current service charge income) in the first 4 years was ringfenced to pay for estate improvements under our proposed scheme ‘more than bricks and mortar’  our mission was: ‘EFDC creating great places where people want to live’.  Our estates would benefit from a cash injection, this strategically, would be a benefit to the whole district in terms of communities, place and customer satisfaction.

 

The Service Manager (Housing Management and Home Ownership), D Fenton, gave a presentation highlighting the benefits for communities.

 

Councillor S Kane said that he was very pleased to see this going ahead and was please at the prospect of resident participation, as this was important to instil some pride in the place.

 

Councillor J Philip commented that it would be good to scope out what the shortfalls were. The way it would self-fund itself was really good and it would allow us to target what was needed, where it was needed.

 

Councillor Murray asked if this would increase service charges. He was told that it would and that in the future they would further consult with the residents to see if they wanted to further increase the services that they were offered. The Council was regulated by the Social Housing regulations and so had to provide fair and accurate charges to services.

 

Councillor Murray commented that although this had been in the pipeline for some time this was not a good time to do this. D Fenton noted that this was subject to housing benefits and officers would be recommending ways that the charges could be applied, for example, going for a tiered     approach over four years. They fully recognised the potential strain that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.

21.

Provision of Telecare pdf icon PDF 251 KB

(Housing & Community) To consider the attached report (C-005-2020-21).

 

Additional documents:

Decision:

Following Essex County Council’s decision to procure a county-wide care technology service Cabinet approved the recommendation to cease EFDC’s own delivery of telecare.

 

Minutes:

The Housing and Community Services Portfolio Holder, Councillor H Whitbread introduce the provision of telecare report. Essex County Council (ECC) had decided to procure a county-wide care technology service for telecare and assistive technology delivery. This had significant implications for EFDC’s own future delivery of telecare to residents across the district.

 

The purpose of this report was to provide background on current services and set out the options available for the ongoing delivery of EFDC’s telecare provision.

 

The report detailed two options available to the Council:

 

1.         Status quo - do nothing;

2.         Cessation of the delivery of telecare.

 

Ultimately recommending that EFDC cease the delivery of telecare to residents living in private dwellings across the district.

 

Councillor Philip noted that  the current slight surplus would go into deficit if we did not take this action.

 

Councillor Wixley noted that there may be a risk to users during the transition phase and also asked if the new contract was for a fixed period. He was assured that it would be a smooth transition and that this would happen in December this year so there was plenty of lead in time.

 

Councillor H Whitbread thanked the telecare staff for their outstanding work during the current lockdown period as they keep in touch with all the vulnerable residents to ensure their wellbeing.

 

Decision:

 

Following Essex County Council’s decision to procure a county-wide care technology service Cabinet approved the recommendation to cease EFDC’s own delivery of telecare.

 

 

Reasons for Proposed Decision:

 

Cessation of the delivery of telecare

 

ECC’s county-wide model provided an alternative for existing users from a trusted provider that offered the potential for both economies of scope and scale. This approach would likely improve efficiency and harness resources to invest and innovate ensuring the new service was at the cutting edge of telecare and assistive technology which would likely be superior to EFDC’s offer.

 

Cessation of service delivery would remove a number of financial and operational risks that currently sit within the Council. The likelihood was that 2.7 full-time equivalent staff who currently worked for the Council solely on the provision of telecare would be transferred to a newly contracted provider under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE).

 

Other Options:

 

Maintain status quo

 

There was an option to maintain the status quo with EFDC continuing to provide telecare to residents within the district. However, retaining current arrangements was unlikely to be a realistic option for the service given that the modest contribution it generates of around £20,000 per year currently would result in a deficit of at least c£15,000 following the mobilisation of ECC’s new contract. The reasons for this include:

           The funding from Essex County Council to supply and maintain the telecare equipment and cover the installation costs will no longer be available under the new arrangement.

           Essex County Council currently fund the first 12 weeks of the service costs for service users. This will no longer be available outside of their new framework contract  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.

22.

Impact of Covid 19 on our Workforce pdf icon PDF 162 KB

(Customer & Corporate Support Services) To consider the attached report (C-006-2020-21).

 

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Cabinet recognised the performance, work and effort of all EFDC employees and contractors in supporting  residents and the business community throughout the Covid19 restrictions as well as the work carried out by the voluntary sector.

 

 

Minutes:

The Customer and Corporate Support Services Portfolio Holder, Councillor S Kane, introduced the report detailing the impact of Covid 19 on the council’s workforce. This report was to formally recognise the exceptional work undertaken by the officers of EFDC in these exceptional circumstances. He noted that the Council had continued to provide services for customers throughout the Covid19 restrictions which were put in place by the Government at the end of March. Employees had worked collaboratively supporting the multifaceted Operation Shield, supporting our business community through Business Rate Grants and being innovative in using technology to provide online resources for both customers and employees.

 

From 11 March a total of 98 employees had been absent from work due to Covid19, 2% were confirmed as having the infection the other 98% stayed home for a variety of self-isolating reasons (figures as at 1 June). If well, employees continued to work from home. No employees had been furloughed.

 

Councillor Bedford also thanked the staff and noted that importantly we had continued providing our services across the district and not had to furlough any staff. He noted that we have had an increase of telephone enquiries of 30% in this period that had been dealt with by officers in a professional and timely manner. The staff had been tremendous, they had shown themselves to be a very flexible and adaptive workforce.

 

Councillor H Whitbread echoed these sentiments, adding that the Community and the Community Safety Team has had to face new challenges, as well as the Housing Team. They had gone above and beyond what was asked of them. Councillor Patel added his agreement to the sentiments raised.

 

Councillor Philip also welcomed this report and was pleased to see the annual leave flexibility that had been brought in for staff, as at these times it was easy to not take leave when working from home. He noted the resource implications of what we have been doing during Covid and that this would have financial consequences for the Council. But, in all we should be really proud of ourselves as a council and all the work we have done at this time.

 

Councillor Avey could not thank the teams that worked for his portfolio enough as well as the contractors such as Biffa who performed admirably over this period. Councillor Chris Pond added his agreement to this saying that the Council’s contractors had been exemplary.

 

Councillor Murray was in total agreement. The staff had been flexible, committed and outstanding. He had received no words of complaint from his residents, no bins had been missed in Loughton and the grounds maintenance people still carried out their work to their usual high standard. He also wanted to thank the voluntary sector, the CAB, the food banks, the Rotary Club and the mutual aid groups that had sprung up.

 

Councillor Wixley voiced his concerns about Biffa operatives in close proximity sharing the cab and other staff working in close proximity with each other. He hoped they were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

County Led Homelessness Recovery Plan pdf icon PDF 316 KB

(Housing & Community) To consider the attached report (C-007-2020-21).

 

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Cabinet noted the County-led post Covid-19 homelessness recovery planning that had taken place to date and approved the progression of EFDC’s involvement in the drafting of a plan.

 

Minutes:

The Housing and Community Services Portfolio Holder, Councillor H Whitbread noted that local housing authorities faced a potential surge in homelessness presentations once Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were lifted.  The surge was likely to come in a series of ‘spikes’ for different cohorts of people experiencing homelessness for different reasons followed by a sustained increase in homelessness as the economic repercussions of Covid-19 were felt. 

 

Whilst the impact would vary in intensity and timescale across the different Districts and Unitary Authorities in Essex, the challenges were likely to be broadly the same.

 

Consequently, the Essex Resilience Forum (ERF), in conjunction with Essex Housing Officers Group (EHOG), commissioned Essex County Council (ECC) to review the current position in relation to both rough sleepers and homelessness and consider the development of recovery plans and/or strategies to support measures that seek to mitigate the impact of additional pressures on homelessness services and the use of temporary accommodation as far as possible.

 

EFDC presently had 11 rough sleepers who were in accommodation so that they could self-isolate at this time, this was something that officers were constantly monitoring.

 

Councillor Brookes asked if our Homeless Prevention Team were working remotely at present or were they able to go out and see people. She was told that they did both, working remotely and making visits. People are still going to either Hemnal House or Norway House and we now have split the officers into two teams to enable social distancing. We also had strong partnerships with other housing providers including housing associations and other local authorities. The situation was under continual review.

 

Councillor Neville asked what sort of work did we do with the London Boroughs. He was told that as part of a number of local authorities that sit just outside the M25 we liaised with London Boroughs on the number of rough sleepers. There was concern we would see a rise in London migration and so were continuing with talks with London Boroughs on this and had reached agreements on a number of different points around support and communication. We have also got a contingency on asylum seekers working in partnership with them. There was some good partnership working going on.

 

Decision:

 

The Cabinet noted the County-led post Covid-19 homelessness recovery planning that had taken place to date and approved the progression of EFDC’s involvement in the drafting of a plan.

 

 

Reasons for Proposed Decision:

 

For EFDC to benefit from the oversight of ECC in reviewing the current homelessness position across Essex;  with an Essex collective, make more robust representations to MHCLG and Homes England on any agreed policy asks to support recovery; through partnership working seek to secure a more coherent support offer from ECC for the benefit of Epping residents.

 

Other Options for Action:

 

Not to approve the progression of EFDC’s involvement in the drafting of a plan and to progress homelessness recovery planning in isolation.

 

 

24.

Business Grants Top-Up - Discretionary Policy pdf icon PDF 324 KB

(Customer & Corporate Support Services) To consider the attached report (C-008-2020-21).

 

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Cabinet approved the Discretionary Top-Up Policy for the issuing of Business Grants attached as Appendix 1 to these minutes, with the addition of the following modifications to the policy. That:

·         A lower band be set at £2,500;

·         To include the manufacture of retail goods; and

·         To give precedence to the long term business that have operated in the district.

 

Minutes:

The Customer and Corporate Support Services Portfolio Holder, Councillor S Kane, introduced the report on business grants top-ups. The report was asking Cabinet to approve a Discretionary Top-Up Policy for the issuing of Business Grants for those businesses who had suffered financial losses since the Covid-19 lockdown and had not this far received financial support. The Policy follows Government guidance on where the priorities for awarding grants should be and allowed authorities an element of discretion on other property types within its local area, The allocation for the scheme was a maximum of £1.49m for the district and is funded through s31 grant from Government.

 

Councillor Avey asked if market traders fell under this scheme. Councillor Kane said that if it was a micro business then it would, depending if the levels were appropriate. But there were only so many businesses that we could help as the £1.5million was a finite resource. This was something that we wanted to discuss this evening, was the policy acceptable as it stood or were there other things we could move forward on.

 

Councillor Philip said that they needed to think if the £5000 was right or should we have it at £2,500. There would never be enough for all the businesses in our district. We also needed to be clear about making an application form for this grant scheme and to publicise it on social media and our website and through our business contacts. Speed was important.

 

Councillor Kane agreed with setting the lower banding at £2,500 so that we could help as many businesses as possible, anything lower would prove to be ineffectual. Was there anything else that we could add to help officers in making their decisions.

 

Councillor Bedford clarified the point on the market traders, they had to be regular market traders with fixed property costs. The traders at Epping Market would not qualify.

 

Councillor Philip noted that one category of business had been missed off, that of businesses manufacturing things for retail. We should include them. Also, add businesses that have operated in our district for a long time. These additions were agreed.

 

Decision:

 

The Cabinet approved the Discretionary Top-Up Policy for the issuing of Business Grants, with the addition of the following modifications to the policy. That:

·         A lower band be set at £2,500;

·         To include the manufacture of retail goods; and

·         To give precedence to the long-term business that have operated in the district.

 

 

Reasons for Proposed Decision:

 

To enable the Council to issue grants to qualifying businesses due to the effects of Covid-19

 

Other Options for Action:

 

1.     To vary the terms of the Discretionary Policy;

2.     To not issue the Discretionary Policy.

 

 

 

25.

Any Other Business

Section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972, together with paragraphs 6 and 24 of the Council Procedure Rules contained in the Constitution requires that the permission of the Chairman be obtained, after prior notice to the Chief Executive, before urgent business not specified in the agenda (including a supplementary agenda of which the statutory period of notice has been given) may be transacted.

 

In accordance with Operational Standing Order 6 (non-executive bodies), any item raised by a non-member shall require the support of a member of the Committee concerned and the Chairman of that Committee.  Two weeks' notice of non-urgent items is required.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was noted that there was no other urgent business for consideration by the Cabinet.

 

 

26.

Exclusion of Public and Press

Exclusion

To consider whether, under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and press should be excluded from the meeting for the items of business set out below on grounds that they will involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the following paragraph(s) of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act (as amended) or are confidential under Section 100(A)(2):

 

Agenda Item No

Subject

Exempt Information Paragraph Number

Nil

Nil

Nil

 

The Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006, which came into effect on 1 March 2006, requires the Council to consider whether maintaining the exemption listed above outweighs the potential public interest in disclosing the information. Any member who considers that this test should be applied to any currently exempted matter on this agenda should contact the proper officer at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.

 

Background Papers

Article 17 of the Constitution (Access to Information) define background papers as being documents relating to the subject matter of the report which in the Proper Officer's opinion:

 

(a)        disclose any facts or matters on which the report or an important part of the report is based;  and

 

(b)        have been relied on to a material extent in preparing the report and does not include published works or those which disclose exempt or confidential information and in respect of executive reports, the advice of any political advisor.

 

The Council will make available for public inspection one copy of each of the documents on the list of background papers for four years after the date of the meeting. Inspection of background papers can be arranged by contacting either the Responsible Officer or the Democratic Services Officer for the particular item.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Cabinet noted that there was no business for consideration which would necessitate the exclusion of the public and press from the virtual meeting.