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).
The Council received written reports from the 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 any updates on matters concerning their relevant portfolios.
(a) Leader of Council
The Leader expressed his disappointment at having to join the meeting on zoom due to him having contracted Covid and he advised that it was bad enough to have Covid after having both vaccinations and would recommend to everyone present if you get an opportunity of having the booster vaccination to take it as well as the flu vaccination as he would not want to wish Covid on anyone and was quite unpleasant.
He advised that he had watched the DDMC meeting the previous evening and stated what a good result it was for Epping with a new sports centre with a swimming pool being approved, at a very well chaired and very well debated meeting and he thanked the Members that participated in the meeting.
The summer seemed a long time ago and much had happened since. Firstly the Boundary Commission were looking as the size and nature of the Council going forward. A Portfolio Holder Advisory Group had now been set up and the first meeting was on the 4 November 2021 and that would progress by starting to look at the make-up of the Council, the number of Members, whether the Council should opt for all out for selection or stay as thirds. There was a huge amount of work to be done around this review and Officers were addressing some of the background work.
He advised that he had recently met with the Leader and Deputy Leader of Essex County Council where he had the opportunity to show them around the Civic Offices and the Civic Hub which they were very impressed by and other Councils were now looking towards what EFDC had done as a way forward post pandemic, to make buildings work in a more productive manner. He stated that partnership working with County and all levels of local government was the way forward for the future to get the best value for money and the best services for EFDC residents.
He advised that he and Councillor J Philip had been meeting regularly with planning colleagues, the Harlow Garden Town Team and the Leaders of Harlow and East Herts. Members may be aware that there will be a new Leader of Harlow shortly and that he would speak more about that at the next Council meeting in December 2021.
There were challenging times ahead of the Council, the Government had done what it could to help through the Pandemic, to which we are still all recovering from and it was encouraging news that the high streets were starting to show signs of recovery. Everyone should still take precautions and wear a mask in closed in areas, do the right thing to help protect each other and the local economy.
(b) Housing Services Portfolio Holder
Councillor H Whitbread advised that she had un update on the Key Policy Consultations and the work that was presently being undertaken, she advised that the Council were on their second round of consultation and scrutiny. A Policy Briefing had been arranged and the dates for this can be found in the Council Bulletin dated 22 October 2021. She appealed to Members to make sure that they took part in the online forms as well as the debate and the consultation.
Councillor H Whitbread then went on to highlight a great piece of work around tenant arrears, since March 2020 to May 2021 there have been no income related evictions at our council properties which was due to the approach the Council were now taking in relation to working with the tenants and supporting them in terms of debt and finance advice. This was a really good piece of news on he intervention the Council were doing to support tenants.
(d) Environmental and Technical Services Portfolio Holder
Councillor N Avey advised that an issue had been raised recently at the Waste Management Board Meeting. As Christmas was approaching it was likely that residents would buy more gifts online than ever before which leads to more packaging and asked residents, where possible, to break down cardboard boxes and put the packaging into recycling bags rather than pile it free on the roadside. This was leading to an enormous strain on the Biffa crews that collected the recycling around the district and delays the whole recycling process. A notice in the next collection calendar, due to be released shortly and delivered to all residents will highlight this issue.
(c) Corporate Services Portfolio Holder
Councillor D Sunger advised that he would like to update the Council on the Engagement and Wellbeing project that has been rolled out and was pleased to announce that we have a Director, Rob Pavey who has stepped up to become a volunteer mental health first aider which shows the initiative that he had taken to come onboard. Last month in training there were a cohort of around 90 trained mental health first aiders and it was important to note that these people really are the place where officers and staff can go to if they have any challenges with their mental health.
Councillor S Heap asked the Finance, Qualis Client and Economic Development Portfolio Holder why was there was a delay in refurbishing the 2nd floor of the Civic Offices and getting the tenant in situ and was this one of the problems by renting to a start-up company.
Councillor J Philip advised Councillor Heap that the letting of the 2nd floor of the Civic Offices had no relationship to Qualis as Councillor Heap had pertained to before asking his question.
He stated that there was a delay on the agreement of the letting of the 2nd floor due to the Civic Offices being a listed building status therefore the fit out for the services offices were delayed due to the lessee not allowing the time for coping with a listed building permission and what it would entail. The way the Council were taking it forward was the overall term of the lease would stay the same and therefore the rent payments would start three months later but would also end 3 months later to enable the lessee to complete the fit out.