Agenda item

Issues Raised by Local Councils

To discuss the following matters raised by Local Council’s:


(1)        Northern Access Gateway (NGAP)


The Branch has asked for this issue to be raised at the meeting to ensure EFDC stiffened its response to the proposals by the London Borough of Enfield which would impact on the traffic levels particularly in Waltham Abbey and Loughton.


The Forward Planning Manager Ian White will be attending to the meeting to give an update. (See attached Appendix).


(2)        ECC Cabinet Member for Libraries, Communities and Planning


The Branch requested that Councillor Roger Hirst be invited to give a presentation on ECC customer services and forward planning. It was reported that whilst there were no plans for the closure of libraries in the County some may be relocated within their communities.


Councillor Hirst has been contacted but was unable to attend this meeting, he has however confirmed he will be able to attend the next meeting on the 26 March 2015.


(3)        Highways


The Branch would like to thank Essex County Council for the recent road surfacing improvements in the District. They were however concerned with the lack of sufficient notice and signage of road closures for works and asked that County Councillor Eddie Johnson be invited to the meeting to discuss this.


County Councillor Johnson has been contacted and confirmed his attendance to the meeting on the 20 November.


(4)        Local Council Tax Support Grant


The Branch would like an update on the likely amounts to expect in 2015/16 and the position in future years.


The Director of Resources has prepared a report and will present it at the meeting. (See Appendix attached).


(1)        Northern Gateway Access Package (NGAP)


The Forward Planning Manager presented a report to the Committee regarding NGAP. There had been a Public Inquiry in 2001 into NGAR (Northern Gateway Access Road) and the planning inspectors’ report,  published in July 2002 was strongly opposed to the scheme. The District Council objected at the time and participated in the Public Inquiry being joined by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, The Conservators of Epping Forest, Essex County Council as the Highways Authority and The Highways Agency. It was hoped that this project had been abandoned but it had resurfaced as part of the NGAP, included in the North East Enfield Area Action Plan Proposed Submission Stage, and the Council had maintained its objection to NGAR. The Area Action Plan will be considered at Examination in Public, probably in February 2015, and the Council would be represented at the EiP.


NGAR would primarily affect the Loughton and Waltham Abbey areas due to the traffic implications, but it was unclear if either of those councils had objected to the Proposed Submission stage of the Area Action Plan. It would be helpful if Loughton Town Council, Waltham Abbey Town Council and Epping Forest District Council could arrange a meeting to present a consistent case at the enquiry.


Councillor Pond advised that last time Essex County Council were very supportive of the district’s objections and thought there was every indication that this would occur again. Councillor Pond asked if there could be a joint submission from Loughton Town Council, Waltham Abbey Town Council,  Epping Forest District Council and Essex County Council.


The Forward Planning Manager replied that he would follow it up with Essex County Council.


(2)        ECC Cabinet Member for Libraries, Communities and Planning


The Committee had invited County Councillor Roger Hirst, Portfolio Holder for Libraries, Communities and Planning, to attend the meeting to discuss the libraries being relocated within the District. However County Councillor Hirst sent his apologies and advised that he would attend the next committee meeting on 26 March 2015.


(3)        Highways


The Committee had agreed to hear this item earlier on in the Agenda as County Councillor Johnson had another appointment.


(4)        Local Council Tax Support Grant


The Director of Resources presented a report to the Committee regarding local support for Council Tax.


In 2013/14 the Council Tax Benefit was replaced by Local Support for Council Tax. Each district area had to devise their own scheme for providing assistance to people struggling to pay the council tax, there were certain parameters with that, particularly protections that the Council were required to give to people of pensionable age.


The District Council were given 90% of the amount of council tax benefit that was paid the previous year. This would implement a scheme of local support for council tax, which had led to a reduction in terms of overall support available. Within that scheme, for the first year in 2013/14, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) advised that of the funding received how much was meant to be for the District Council and how much for the Town and Parish Councils. In the first year there was a shortfall, in terms of the impact on the Town and Parish Councils, Members of the District Council decided to top this up so there was no financial disadvantage to the Town and Parish Councils in the first year.


In the second year the DCLG stopped providing separate allocations, therefore the District Council decided that the reduction in the overall grant was shared equally across those grants. The reduction applied to the support was the same as the overall reduction in grants which was at 12.5% for 2014/15.    


As part of keeping this Committee informed and assisting parishes with their financial planning, the Committee had been told of the likely reductions for both 2014/15 and 2015/16. At this time last year it was anticipated that the reductions would be 13.6% for 2014/15 and 14.1% for 2015/16. The actual reduction for 2014/15 was lower at 12.5% but this was balanced by an anticipated higher reduction of 15.4% for 2015/16.


The Director stated that when he had come before this Committee previously there had been discussions around the various ways of sharing the reduction in the grant, and it was previously felt by this Committee that the fairest way of doing this was allocating the grant in proportion to the amount of income that was lost in reductions to the tax base.


The final settlement figures were again unlikely to be available until late December. As soon as the figures were confirmed the information would be shared. For the moment it would be prudent to budget based on a reduction in support grant of at least 15.4% in 2015/16.


DCLG have not yet imposed the requirement to conduct a referendum on increases in Council Tax on town and parish councils, although this remains a possibility. The limit on major preceptors was still to be confirmed for 2015/16 but it was likely to be less than last year’s 2%, with a positive referendum outcome being needed before an increase greater than 2% could be made.


The Chairman thanked the Director of Resources for his presentation. The committee went onto ask questions.


(a)        Councillor Surtees, Ongar Town Council stated that he had heard that there would be further changes in the financial arrangements between local and district councils in the future. He asked if these would impact on town and parish councils and that there would be an opportunity for discussion and liaison before any kind of decision was made.


The Director of Resources advised that there had been proposals discussed at the Finance and Performance Cabinet Committee, recommendations were to go to Cabinet but there aren’t any that would have a direct impact on the Town and Parish Councils.




(1)          That the Essex County Councillor Portfolio Holder for Libraries, Communities and Planning be confirmed to attend the next meeting on 26 March 2015.


(2)        That future changes in financial arrangement between Local and District Councils in the future would not have a direct impact on the Town and Parish Councils.

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