Agenda and minutes

Council - Tuesday, 5th April, 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Offices. View directions

Contact: Gary Woodhall Tel: (01992) 564243  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

80.

Webcasting Introduction

This meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to activate their microphones before speaking. The Democratic and Electoral Services Team Manager will read the following announcement:

 

“The chairman would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the internet (or filmed) and will be capable of repeated viewing (or another use by such third parties).

 

If you are seated in the lower public seating area it is likely that the recording cameras will capture your image and this will result in the possibility that your image will become part of the broadcast.

 

This may infringe your human and data protection rights and if you wish to avoid this you should move to the upper public gallery.”

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Democratic Services Manager reminded everyone present that the meeting would be broadcast live to the Internet, and that the Council had adopted a protocol for the webcasting of its meetings.

81.

Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any item on the agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

82.

APPOINTMENT OF VICE-CHAIRMAN

Additional documents:

Minutes:

In the absence of the Vice-Chairman, who had tendered her apologies, it was proposed that Councillor M Sartin be Vice-Chairman for the duration of the meeting.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That Members agreed that Councillor M Sartin would assume the role of Vice-Chairman for the duration of the meeting.

83.

Announcements

(a)        Chairman’s Announcements

Additional documents:

Minutes:

(a)        Arrangements for the Local Elections Count

 

The Democratic and Electoral Services Manager advised Members of the arrangements for the Local Elections Count, he stated that this information was also in the Council Bulletin this week.

 

The count for this year’s Local Elections will be held on the night of Thursday 5 May at the Civic Offices in the Conference Suite and the Café Area for the 13 Count Teams. The Corporate Communications Team and televisions will be based in the Community Hub and there will also be a coffee station. There will be a walkway around the outside of the area where the Count Teams are but we would ask you to refrain from entering the Count Hall until either your ward or a ward for which you are an agent was being counted. Further information regarding the Count will be relayed to you with your entry tickets.

 

(b)       Chairman’s Announcements

 

(i)         Civic Awards

 

The Chairman advised that the Civic Awards was a great success and that she set out to achieve two things, firstly that the Civic Offices could be used for hosting events and functions and secondly to welcome the community. I would like to extend my thanks to the officers and staff who made this event a reality, there were many positive comments made about the success of this event.

 

(ii)        Flowers

 

The Chairman announced that she intended that the flowers from this evenings meeting to go to the reception area in the Civic Offices to be enjoyed by all of the staff and visitors.

84.

Public Questions (If Any)

To answer questions asked after notice in accordance with the provisions contained within Part 4 of the Council Rules of the Constitution on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties or which affects the District:

 

(a)        to the Leader of the Council;

 

(b)        to any Portfolio Holder; or

 

(c)        to the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

 

Questions, if any, will follow if not received in time to be incorporated into the agenda.

 

(1)        Public Question from Mr M Searle

 

I would like to bring to the attention of the Council that an unknown number of manholes situated on public land in Waltham Abbey are not being inspected or maintained by anyone.

 

Thames Water, Essex County Council (Highways) and Epping Forest District Council have all stated that it is not their responsibility to inspect and maintain these manholes.

 

This is a real problem because a number are damaged and hazardous and have been for some time. It's insufficient for the council to say action will be taken once it's made aware of a problem, because by then somebody may have already been injured, as demonstrated when a grandmother out walking her dogs suffered severe leg injuries after falling down one of these neglected and defective manholes.


Councillor Steve Heather, who was contacted last July regarding this matter, stated, after receiving photographic and video evidence of damaged manholes, that "this is a very serious ongoing problem" and "they are death traps in waiting". 

 

Somebody needs to take responsibility because I'm sure nobody disagrees that the health and safety of everyone in Waltham Abbey is paramount and that some system of inspection and maintenance should be in place to prevent further accidents occurring.

 

Will the council please be proactive rather than reactive and endeavour to find a solution to this very serious issue?

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Question by Mr M Searle, resident of Waltham Abbey to Councillor N Avey, Environment and Technical Services Portfolio Holder

 

I would like to bring to the attention of the Council that an unknown number of manholes situated on public land in Waltham Abbey are not being inspected or maintained by anyone.

 

Thames Water, Essex County Council (Highways) and Epping Forest District Council have all stated that it is not their responsibility to inspect and maintain these manholes.

 

This is a real problem because a number are damaged and hazardous and have been for some time. It's insufficient for the council to say action will be taken once it's made aware of a problem, because by then somebody may have already been injured, as demonstrated when a grandmother out walking her dogs suffered severe leg injuries after falling down one of these neglected and defective manholes.


Councillor Steve Heather, who was contacted last July regarding this matter, stated, after receiving photographic and video evidence of damaged manholes, that "this is a very serious ongoing problem" and "they are death traps in waiting". 

 

Somebody needs to take responsibility because I'm sure nobody disagrees that the health and safety of everyone in Waltham Abbey is paramount and that some system of inspection and maintenance should be in place to prevent further accidents occurring.

 

Will the council please be proactive rather than reactive and endeavour to find a solution to this very serious issue?

 

Response given by Councillor N Avey Environmental and Technical Services Portfolio Holder

 

Manholes can be owned by several different companies on both private and public land, Thames Water, Essex Highways or even BT/utilities.  It is not a function of EFDC to inspect the statutory sewerage undertakers’ assets, Thames Water are responsible for their assets and Essex Highways are responsible for the safety of the highway as the Highway Authority, highway rights take precedent over ownership in most instances.

 

The majority of non-highway adopted “public land” areas in Waltham Abbey tend to (but not exclusively) fall within Housings overall estate management responsibilities and are working towards an inspection regime including manhole covers once a year.  If locations of defective covers can be provided, responsibility for them can be investigated and the appropriate agency informed.

 

The graphic below from Thames Water’s website shows where property owners would be responsible for drainage systems for context.

 

Thames info: https://www.thameswater.co.uk/help/emergencies/manhole-covers

 

The Essex Highways reporting tool takes you directly to the relevant companies website to report it:

www.essexhighways.org/tell-us

 

If you know the postcode you can find out who supplies the water and sewerage to the area by the website:  www.water.org.uk

85.

Questions By Members Under Notice

To answer questions asked after notice in accordance with the provisions contained within the Council’s rules in Part 4 of the Constitution on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties or which affects the District:

 

(a)                  to the Chairman of the Council;

 

(b)                  to the Leader of the Council;

 

(c)                  to any Member of the Cabinet; or

 

(d)                  the Chairman of any Committee or Sub-Committee.

 

The Council’s rules provide that answers to questions under notice may take the form of:

 

(a)             direct oral answer;

 

(b)             where the desired information is in a publication of the Council or other published work, a reference to that publication; or

 

(c)             where the reply cannot conveniently be given orally, a written answer circulated later to the questioner.

 

Answers to questions falling within (a) and (b) above will be made available to the member asking the question one hour before the meeting. Answers to questions falling within (c) above will be circulated to all councillors.

 

Questions, if any, will follow if not received in time to be incorporated into the agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Council noted that there were no questions by members under notice that had been submitted for consideration at this meeting.

86.

Reports from the Leader & Members of the Cabinet pdf icon PDF 117 KB

To receive reports and any announcements from the Leader and members of the Cabinet on matters falling within their area of responsibility:

 

(a)        Report of the Leader;

 

(b)        Report of the Community and Regulatory Services Portfolio Holder (attached);

 

(c)        Report of the Corporate ServicesPortfolio Holder (attached);

 

(d)        Report of the Customer and Partnerships Portfolio Holder (attached);

 

(e)        Report of the Environmental and Technical Services Portfolio Holder (attached);

 

(f)         Report of the Finance, Qualis Client and Economic Development Portfolio Holder (attached);

 

(g)        Report of the Housing Services Portfolio Holder (attached); and    

 

(h)        Report of the Planning and Sustainability Portfolio Holder (attached).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Council received written reports from Portfolio Holders. The Chairman invited the Leader of Council to provide an oral report and the opportunity for other members of the Cabinet to give updates on matters concerning their relevant portfolios.

 

(a)        Leader of Council

 

Councillor C Whitbread congratulated the Chairman of Council for hosting the Civic Awards in the Civic Offices and added that it was a great demonstration of the versatility of the Civic Offices building.

 

Other uses recently were the Ukrainian collection hub, the opening of the Regis Company on the top floor and the actual use of the hub by Officers and Members. He stated that the hub had become a very versatile and useful space for the district as a whole.

 

He advised he had been invited to the opening of Regis and thought the mix of people using the office space would bring more life back into the High Street.

 

He stated over the last few weeks that he had been meeting other Leaders from Harlow, Broxbourne and East Herts some of the meetings were to do with the Harlow Garden Town project and how that was progressing, but also to look at opportunities for the future. He advised that he was looking to maximise opportunities with other nearby authorities to drive further benefits to the residents of Epping Forest.

 

He reported that he had recently been able to get out and about to other parts of the district, he had met with Councillor Keska on Sunday at the Ongar Farmers Market which was run by the Ongar Forum, on of the most successful business groupings locally and to have discussions around what was going on in Ongar, he stated that it was great to be able to get out and about again visiting different communities.

 

Questions to the Portfolio Holders regarding their reports

 

Councillor Chris Pond advised his question was to Councillor S Kane and referred to his report on pages 15 and 17 of the agenda and stated that he agreed that the car park tariffs needed revising but what he and his constituents didn’t find acceptable was  the change of time for charging in Traps Hill Car Park in Loughton where charging now starts at 8am. A special arrangement was entered into with Councillor Waller when he was the Portfolio Holder to enable Traps Hill car park to be used as a starting point for the Staples Road School walking bus which took place in the morning at around 8.30 to 9am. Also many users of the leisure centre, in EFDC’s own facility are also aggrieved at the bringing forward of the time. Therefore would Councillor Kane reconsider this start time for the charging regime as it does seem to have been done without any consultation.

 

Councillor S Kane advised that he had also received emails from constituents and it was very unfortunate that this was not picked up at the Stronger Place Select Committee or Cabinet as there was quite clearly an approach  ...  view the full minutes text for item 86.

87.

Questions by Members Without Notice

The Council’s rules provide for questions by any member of the Council to the Leader or any Portfolio Holder, without notice on:

 

(i)            reports under the previous item; or

 

(ii)           any other matter of a non operational character in relation to the powers and  duties of the Council or which affects all or part of the District or some or all of  its inhabitants.

 

The Council’s rules provide that answers to questions without notice may take the form of:

 

(a)            a direct oral answer from the Leader or, at the request of the Leader, from another member of the Cabinet;

 

(b)            where the desired information is in a publication of the Council or other published work, a reference to that publication;

 

(c)            where the reply cannot conveniently be given orally, a written answer circulated later to the questioner; or

 

(d)            where the question relates to an operational matter, the Leader or a member of the Cabinet will request that a response be given direct to the questioner by the relevant Service Director.

 

In accordance with the Council’s rules, a time limit of thirty minutes is set for questions. Any question not dealt with within the time available will receive a written reply. The Chairman may extend this period by up to a further ten minutes at their discretion.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman thanked Members for giving notification of their intention to ask a question without notice.

 

(a)        Grant Aid

 

Councillor Murray advised his question was to the Community and Regulatory Services Portfolio Holder and stated that it was to do with a press release issued on the 21 March regarding Grant Aid. Councillor Patel said in that press release that he was delighted to approve 30 applications totalling £85,000 of Grant Aid and the Council recognised the significant impact that our amazing local community and voluntary sector groups who in turn supported the positive well health and wellbeing of our residents. He asked why did Councillor Patel feel able to put forward and be part of a leadership party, that the budget papers for 2022/23 which consisted of 147 pages and tucked away on page 105 there was one line in the budget that showed the grants to voluntary organisation in the new financial year had been cut by over 50%. I thought it was important, after the fine words Councillor Patel had said for this year, and wanted to know why was he able to go along with the budget and a 50% cut for the next municipal year. Councillor Murray stated that he could find no explanation or notification of this cut so why Councillor Patel, as the Portfolio Holder would accept that cut.

 

The Chairman asked Councillor J Philip to answer this question as it was to do with finance and the Council budget which fell into his remit.

 

Councillor J Philip thanked Councillor Murray for his question and stated that there was a fixed pot of money for 2022/23 to spend, there were difficult choices to be made with the grant aid and the frontline services we provide and if more money was put into the grant aid then some services would have to be cut. The budget papers went to Cabinet where it was debated and no objections were made to the grant aid being cut. Councillor Philip stated that he did not want to cut any of the Council frontline services and as he had said at Cabinet the next financial year would be a very tough year for the Council. Council Philip stressed that the Council was aiming to come in under budget and if so that meant that the Council could be more generous with the Grant Aid in the 2023/24 financial year.

 

Councillor S Murray thanked Councillor Philip for his answer but stated that his question was quite specific to which Portfolio Holder he asked his question to and stated that he had great respect for the Chairman but didn’t think it was up to her or the Cabinet to decide who would answer his question and he would like the Portfolio Holder in line with his press release to answer his question.

 

Councillor J Philip stated that Councillor Murray asked a question regarding the budget and advised that it was brought forward as a Cabinet, there were trade-offs within it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 87.

88.

Motions

To consider any motions, notice of which has been given under the Council’s rules.

 

Motions, if any, will follow if not received in time to be incorporated into the agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman reported that there were no motions to be considered at the meeting.

89.

ANTI-FRAUD AND CORRUPTION STRATEGY pdf icon PDF 96 KB

(Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee) To receive a report from the Audit and Governance Committee recommending that the Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy be approved.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor I Hadley, Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee

 

Councillor I Hadley advised that the Audit and Governance Committee, at its meeting on the 23 November 2021, reviewed and referred the revised Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy to the Council for approval.

 

He stated that this was a very robust strategy and pointed out the four amendments which were made:

 

·         HR related fraud – such as false information on job applications, bogus qualifications / references, failing to declare previous convictions etc; (Appendix A page 50 of the Agenda)

 

·         In cases where the offence is deliberate and serious enough to warrant prosecution, consideration will be given to the Council’s own policies as well as The Code for Crown Prosecutors fraud prosecution / sanction policy. If deemed appropriate legal proceedings will be undertaken in conjunction with Legal Services and / or other bodies such as the Police. Utilising the provisions of Section 222 of The Local Government Act 1972, the Corporate Fraud Team in conjunction with Legal Services are appropriatelyauthorised to undertake criminal prosecutions (Appendix A page 51 of the Agenda);

 

·         Increasing ownership of the fraud risks in service areas (Appendix A page 52 of the Agenda); and

 

·         Reduce the losses as a result of fraud or corruption and fully utilise available methods of loss recovery (e.g. POCA (Proceeds of Crimes Act) (Appendix A page 53 of the Agenda).

 

Councillor S Murray asked if this strategy also applied to Qualis and if so do the Council expect them to follow this strategy or did they have their own Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy.

 

Councillor I Hadley stated that  this strategy applied only to Epping Forest District Council as Qualis was a separate company.

 

Councillor S Murray asked if EFDC were the only shareholder in Qualis.

 

Councillor J Philip advised that Qualis did have its own strategy on Anti-Fraud and Corruption which was reported in the last Qualis Annual report about the governance that was in place. All Qualis policies are in place and are regularly monitored to make sure they are compliant. Being a private company their drivers are slightly different from being a local authority and that was why they required a different one because there were different standards that needed to be held because they were effectively a Government owned entity in terms of the bribery and corruption act which needed to be correct.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the recommendations of the Audit and Governance Committee as set out below be agreed:

 

o   HR related fraud – such as false information on job applications, bogus qualifications / references, failing to declare previous convictions etc; (Appendix A page 50 of the Agenda)

 

o   In cases where the offence is deliberate and serious enough to warrant prosecution, consideration will be given to the Council’s own policies as well as The Code for Crown Prosecutors fraud prosecution / sanction policy. If deemed appropriate legal proceedings will be undertaken in conjunction with Legal Services and / or other bodies such as the Police. Utilising  ...  view the full minutes text for item 89.

90.

CONSTITUTION WORKING GROUP REPORT pdf icon PDF 223 KB

(Chairman of the Constitution Working Group) To receive a report from the Constitution Working Group recommending a review of Article 4, The Full Council Terms of Reference sub-paragraph 1(c) and to agree the recommendations.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

In the absence of the Chairman of the Constitution Working Group, Councillor S Rackham, Councillor J Philip presented the report on her behalf.

 

Councillor J Philip advised that this review had occurred as a result of questions from members on a Constitution training course in May 2021. It was felt that a majority of the plans and strategies either did not exist, were no longer needed or had already been replaced. At the Constitution Working Group (CWG) on the 23 November 2021 members of the CWG considered and took the time to go through each one of the plans and strategies and agreed on what was to be either removed or updated. He therefore urged Councillors to agree the recommendations in the report on pages 73-80 of the agenda.

 

Councillor S Murray stated that he felt there was not enough information in the report to agree the recommendations and stated that he had four statements to make and referred to appendix 1 (pages 74-75 of the agenda).

 

(a)  Community Plan / Strategy which was being removed from being reported to Council. He felt that this was important and should not be removed.

 

(b)  Economic Development Strategy being removed from Council to go to a Scrutiny Committee and then to Cabinet and stated that the Economic Development Strategy was important and should be reported to Full Council where all Councillors would have a chance to debate that as a member of the debating group which was key to the district.

 

(c)   Local Transport Plan he stated that anyone that uses buses in the district would know that the Council did not have a Local Transport Plan but he said it should not be removed.

 

(d)  Social Inclusion Strategy he stated he felt very strongly about this strategy, there had been no evidence of adoption by Full Council recently so it was recommended to be removed. The Social Inclusion Strategy was absolutely crucial and he gave an example relating to the Food Bank that the Council had an agreement with operated the Food in School Holiday meals (FISH) and over the last two days over 73 families had been referred to them by primary schools, feeding over 304 people through the school holidays. Any Youth worker, teacher that you speak to will tell you that social exclusion exists and therefore social inclusion in Epping Forest was really important. He stated that social exclusion was a growing problem and sadly not a diminishing problem and thought that this should not be removed as it was a strategy that should be a part of a Full Council agenda when it was relevant to be.

 

Councillor J Philip commented on the Social Inclusion Strategy and stated that the last reference to this strategy was in 2008 and if that was the last time there was a reference to a Social Inclusion Strategy then clearly this Council doesn’t think it was something that was needed to have as a strategy adopted by the Council otherwise it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 90.

91.

Joint Arrangements & External Organisations

(a)          To receive from Council representatives the reports (attached - if any) on the business of joint arrangements and external organisations and to receive answers to any questions on those bodies which may be put without notice; and

 

(b)               To request written reports from representatives on joint arrangements and external organisations for future meetings.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chairman advised that the Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey would be opening to the public on Easter Sunday, 17 April 2022, which had been well received by the local press.