Agenda and minutes

Stronger Communities Select Committee
Tuesday, 2nd July, 2019 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Offices. View directions

Contact: J Leither (01992 564243)  Email:


No. Item


Webcasting Introduction

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


The Chairman will read the following announcement:


“This meeting will be webcast live to the Internet and will be archived for later viewing. Copies of recordings may be made available on request.


By entering the chamber’s lower seating area you consenting to becoming part of the webcast.


If you wish to avoid being filmed you should move to the public gallery or speak to the webcasting officer”.

Additional documents:


The Chairman 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.


Substitute Members (Council Minute 39 - 23.07.02)

To report the appointment of any Substitute members for the meeting.

Additional documents:


The following substitutions were reported:


That Councillor D Stocker was substituting for Councillor J McIvor; and


That Councillor R Brookes was substituting for Councillor A Beales.


Declarations of Interest

To declare interest in any items on the agenda.

Additional documents:


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


Terms of Reference and Work Programme pdf icon PDF 56 KB

(Chairman/Lead Officer) The Overview and Scrutiny Committee has agreed the terms of reference of the Select Committee. This is attached along with an ongoing work programme. Members are invited at each meeting to review both documents.

Additional documents:


The Chairman, Councillor Y Knight advised that the Terms of Reference and Work Programme for the Select Committee had been agreed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on the 16 April 2019.


 (a)       Terms of Reference


The Committee were informed that the Terms of Reference set out the core areas of responsibility and the scrutiny role of the Stronger Communities Select Committee.


The Select Committee noted the Terms of Reference


(2)        Work Programme


The 2019/20 work programme would be updated following each meeting to reflect the ongoing progress. The items on the current work programme had been assigned deadline dates for when the Committee would consider these items throughout the year and it would evolve to include suggestions from the Committee.


The Committee noted the Work Programme.


Universal Credit Impact Working Group pdf icon PDF 131 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:


R Pavey, Service Director (Customer Services), introduced a report to the Select Committee regarding the Universal Credit Impact Working Group.


He advised that Universal Credit (UC) was a consolidation of a number of individual benefits into a single payment for claimants. The roll-out of UC to all Job Centres in the District was completed in December 2018. UC will ultimately affect the majority of working-age benefit claimants which make up around 50% of EFDC’s Housing Benefit caseload. As from 5 December 2018 any new Housing Benefit claimants of working age were now referred to the Job Centre to apply for Universal Credit which would incorporate the Housing element of their Benefit entitlement. There was a phased migration of existing Housing Benefit claimants onto Universal Credit which the Government had now extended to 2023.


UC was administered by the Department of Work and Pensions and a formal arrangement existed with Citizens Advice to provide advice and help with claims. The Council therefore had no official role in the UC claim process. It had been made well known that there have been problems with its roll-out nationally which affected the Council’s residents and impacted on our services. Most of the issues have arisen out of the 5-week delay for claimants receiving their first UC payment although the timeframe has often been longer. These problems have been recognised by the Secretary of State who is currently reviewing elements of the UC process.


The current issues affecting residents was growing debt, vulnerable claimants and the claim process, the digital-by-default process and safeguarding concerns. This would inevitable impact on the demands and performance of the Council’s services, due to people having problems paying their bills, such as rent and Council Tax which could lead to homelessness concerns.


The Working Group consisted of Council departments (Customer Services, Housing, Revenues and Benefits, Safeguarding and Community Services)DWP, Epping Forest Food Bank, Peabody Trust, Citizens Advice, Churches Together and Epping Re-use. Other organisations have been approached and invited, dependent upon the issues discussed.


The aim of the Working Group was to establish a programme and provide support networks for claimants. There have been several meetings of the Group and key issues were identified:


  • Initial 5-week period before the first payment is made;
  • Handling claimants with mental health issues;
  • Debt;
  • Work assessments;
  • Awareness of alternative payment arrangements;
  • Temporary accommodation of residents with specific issues such as learning difficulties;
  • Publicity and awareness of services available for both claimants and organisations; and
  • Digital inclusion concerns as the process is digital by default.


The work of the group represented a way in which the Council could work with its partners to provide better outcomes for the residents and would reduce the potential impacts on demands for services. There were a number of areas yet to be explored and future findings would reported to the Select Committee at a later date.


Councillor J H Whitehouse remarked on what an excellent initiative that the working group were achieving and has brought the Council some  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Presentation on the Switch Digital Inclusion Project

Presentation by Louis Walton, Corporate Management Trainee.

Additional documents:


The Customer Services Director, R Pavey gave a presentation to the Select Committee regarding Citizens Online, Epping Forest Switch Project.


Citizens Online – Digital Inclusion was a registered charity established in 2000 and had worked with over 50 communities around the UK. Since 2015, Citizens Online had been involved in the One Digital programme to improve basic digital skills across the UK. The One Digital programme was delivered by a partnership comprising of Age UK, Clarion Housing Group, SCVO and Digital Unite.


With budgets being cut savings must be made to deliver high quality services. Enabling residents to access services online delivers savings and also customer satisfaction. There were a significant percentage of the population that lacked digital skills. It was imperative that they weren’t left behind and that the Council supported those who were able to develop better digital skills. Therefore, the more people accessing online services allowed more time to support those who would always need support.


Data from the 2018 Labour Force Survey conducted by ONS about Internet Users was not collected at the granular enough level to provide an estimate for Epping Forest, but suggested that across the Essex County Council area there are around 133,000 people who had never used the internet or last used it over three months ago. 


Approximately 34,000 people in the West Essex area (Epping Forest and Uttlesford) were expected to be in this group. The 2011 Census recorded 124,659 people as usual residents of Epping Forest and 79,443 of Uttlesford. Assuming the proportion who were not recent internet users was equivalent, this would equate to around 13,000 adults in Uttlesford and 21,000 adults who had not used the internet recently or ever in Epping Forest.


It was estimated that around 1,000 Housing Benefit claims are made from people with low or no digital capabilities these mainly live in Waltham Abbey and Loughton. This was a significant number and ultimately all Housing Benefit claimants will be required to switch to the digital-by-default Universal Credit system. Working with Citizens Advice in other areas a claim for a single person took an average of 1 hour to complete and 1 hour 15 minutes for a couple. Once the claim was completed the claimants required continued support to complete online jobseeking diaries.


How could the Council help towards a solution:


(a)        Evidence – Target resources effectively to help towards age, disability and low income.


(b)        Partnership – The problem was too great for any single organisation to tackle alone. Those claimants that did not have the facility to go online were the most difficult to reach and an hour in the library would not be enough support. The Council were engaging with local organisations to form a partnership to help and support claimants in this district.


(c)        Digital Champions – These were people with the time and confidence to help others with digital skills. The network would have a mix of embedded Digital Champions, some of which are working at EFDC as well as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Essex Prisoner Protocol pdf icon PDF 107 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:


The Housing and Property Service Director, P Pledger presented a report to the Select Committee regarding the Essex Prisoner Protocol.


The Essex Prisoner Protocol, Agenda Item 8, appendix 1, was initiated by the Essex Community Rehabilitation Company, an organisation that worked with people serving their sentence in prison and the community. Their purpose was to reduce offending, the risk of harm, and to improve the quality of life of those under their supervision and care.


The intention of the Protocol was to reduce the number of Essex Adult Offenders who left custody without suitable accommodation to move into and to reduce the number of offenders who had to sleep rough.


On average the Council’s Homeless Team dealt with 6 cases a year that left custody with no accommodation. With each of these cases, attempts would be made to access accommodation that was suitable for their needs. Arrangements would also be made to reintegrate offenders to areas where they have no connection with the Epping Forest District. Additionally, Senior Homeless staff Members already attend the Multi Agency Protection Panel Arrangements (MAPPA) where identified high risk offenders are discussed well in advance of their release date. The Council also worked closely with Churches Homeless Emergency Support Scheme (CHESS) who provide outreach support for identified rough sleepers.  


The Council’s duties under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 required that it provided  an open approach to all referrals to the Homeless Service. The Council has open referral arrangements in place under the Duty to Refer provisions. Adopting this protocol will improve referrals and ensure that all identified prisoners leaving custody without accommodation could be dealt with. Additionally, offenders sleeping rough or occupying unsuitable accommodation would also receive the same level of service.


The Essex Housing Officer Group, as well as other partner Agencies have been consulted and were equally seeking to adopt this Protocol.


Councillor J Lea asked when a prisoner was released, they moved to a different area

And continued to offend would it be picked up that they were already an offender and had been in prison. If so why would we rehouse people that continually reoffend. P Pledger advised that Homeless Prevention Legislation meant that we have an obligation to rehouse offenders. The protocol provided many more agencies that would also be involved.


Councillor S Rackham asked what was the process when ex-offenders left prison. P Pledger advised that he would report back as this was not his area of expertise and he would have to get advice.


Councillor Bedford stated that they would be closely monitored by the probation service and reoffenders would be sent back to prison.


The Chairman advised that page 1 of the report, paragraph 3, 4th line, the word ‘reconnect’ should read ‘reintegrate’.




That the Committee considered and recommended to the Housing Portfolio Holder to adopt the Essex Prisoner Protocol, attached at Agenda Item 8, appendix 1, in partnership with other Essex Councils and other Key Agencies.


Update on the work of EFDC Funded Police Officers pdf icon PDF 115 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:


The Chairman welcomed Sergeant Neil Ross from the Community Safety Team to the meeting who was attending to give an updated on the work of the EFDC Funded Police Officers. Sergeant Ross advised that the Council’s funded Police Officers became officially operational on 20 July 2018 and continued to make a real impact to the reduction in crime within the Epping Forest District.


The team were tasked according to the District Community Safety Partnership priorities which were identified through the Annual Strategic Assessment. These are aligned to the priorities set by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner’s (PFCC) Policing Plan. Aside from these priorities the team were occasionally deployed to support EFDC staff in carrying out their work where there was an identified threat, harm or risk to staff. Close management of the tasking process has ensured that the police team were deployed efficiently and effectively.


A problem profile, commissioned by the Community Safety Partnership, showed that crime in general had reduced across the district since June 2018.


The team have completed over 55 specific tasking requests over the last twelve months and have been active in every ward in the district. A few examples of work they have undertaken between January 2019 to date are detailed below:


  • Supported EFDC and Police Licensing teams with serving notices on high-risk licensed premises.
  • Responded to priority tasking in Loughton and arrested two suspects for drugs supply offences.
  • Deployed to firearms incident in Waltham Abbey whereby resident was threatening neighbours with a machete. Team led the incident and successfully detained and arrested the suspect as well as recovering the weapon.
  • During targeted patrols following a series of knife-point robberies in the district the team intercepted the target vehicle. A lengthy pursuit ensued but was discontinued when the vehicle went into London. Recovered following RTC and suspects linked through forensics have since been charged.
  • Assist Housing with lock change at premises occupied by high-risk subject
  • Identified and intercepted a recovery truck carrying a stolen vehicle and arrested two suspects. Further enquiries resulted in the recovery of 6 further stolen vehicles.
  • Tasked to rural patrols re: increase in rural crime. Intercepted a known-burglar who was wanted for failing to appear at court.
  • Ran an operation at Epping Forest College with a screening arch and provided engagement to students. There were 4500 pass-throughs with no positive searches.
  • Traced subject vehicle linked to burglary series in Theydon Bois. Arrested two suspects, one of whom was wanted by multiple forces across the South-East.
  • Intercepted a stolen vehicle in Theydon Bois that had been committing burglaries across the district. Suspect decamped and has not been traced but vehicle recovered with an arsenal of house-breaking tools inside
  • Identified suspects for high value burglary in Chigwell and working with Metropolitan Police arrested well-known burglar in Ilford who was also wanted for multiple burglary offence across the district. Charged and currently awaiting trial.
  • Recovered a large number of stolen vehicles discovered whilst on patrol around the district, activated ANPR or linked  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Ageing Population Review pdf icon PDF 127 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:


The Community, Culture and Wellbeing Manager, Gill Wallis presented a report to the Select Committee regarding an annual review of the work undertaken to address the needs of the ageing population.


In 2015/16 the Council undertook a comprehensive study into the impact of an ageing population in the Epping Forest district. At this time, a number of recommendations were generated for the Council, along with key statutory and voluntary sector partners, to progress.


In March 2018 the multi-agency Epping Forest Health & Wellbeing Board formally adopted and launched the Epping Forest Health & Wellbeing Strategy 2018-28. The health and wellbeing of older residents formed a key part of the Strategy and it was agreed, therefore, that the future focus for the delivery of projects and initiatives relating to the ageing population would sit with the associated multi-agency Age Well Action Group.


Under the Health & Wellbeing Board there were three Action Groups which were age specific:


·        Start Well Action Group – Looked at pre-birth to 19 years old;

·        Be Well Action Group – Looked at working age adults; and

·        Age Well Action Group – Looked at initiatives around older people. 


Through partner consensus, a review of the original Ageing Population Study Action Plan was undertaken and a revised Age Well Action Plan was developed and adopted. The key priorities agreed by all partners were as follows:


  • Increasing physical activity
  • Reducing social isolation and loneliness
  • Keeping older residents safe and independent at home


The current Action Plan attached to the Agenda, Item 10, provided an overview of the areas of work being undertaken to address the needs of the district`s ageing population.


The Assistant Manager, Community, Health & Wellbeing, J Warwick advised the Select Committee that the Age Well Action Group plan was split into three priority areas:


1.         Increasing Physical Activity


A numbers of successful sports have been developed around walking sports:


·        Walking Football weekly in Waltham Abbey which has approximately 18 people attending;

·        Nordic Walking weekly in Epping; and

·        Walking Netball.


These sports increased physical activity and reduced inactivity by a targeted approach to groups most likely to be inactive & underrepresented in a physical activity and sport.


Strength and Balance Pilot in Care Homes


Five care homes were identified for the pilot and working closely with a qualified instructor who would deliver a number of strength and balance sessions to improve physical activity and mobility. The Activity Co-Ordinator’s from the Care Homes would then be invited to attend two 2 hour training sessions which we deliver to give them the skills to deliver the sessions back in the Care Homes to ensure that the pilot was sustainable. We also provide the Care Homes with some equipment, exercise bands and balls.


This has been a really successful pilot that it was likely to be rolled out across West Essex to get more Care Homes involved.


West Essex CCG, EFDC, ECC Provide, Community Agents and Frontline to work together more proactively in respect of older people helping them in being more physically active and leaving  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


What are our Customers Telling Us pdf icon PDF 111 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:


R Pavey, Service Director (Customer Services), gave an overview on Customer Services and what our Customers were telling us.


One of the key corporate work programmes that this Committee was responsible for scrutinising was customer excellence which was putting customers at the heart of everything we do and on where the Council met customer needs, recognising positive feedback where it was received and acknowledging there were opportunities for improvements. The Council would be developing its customer engagement process as part of a new Customer Service Strategy would be reported at a future meeting.


There were elements of engagement across the authority on-going which needed to be pulled together to provide a holistic view. This process will increasingly inform the content of future reports and will provide a key resource to enable the Council to design its services around its customers.


The report provided feedback received by customers since 1 April 2019 and related to the Govmetric feedback which was received via contacts through telephone, email and the website. The feedback was only possible via Govmetric for the customer contacts that were handled via the Customer Contact centre and Revenues, which have the appropriate systems in place. The more services that moved into the contact centre the more comprehensive this type of feedback would be. The feedback provided both negative and positive feedback from customers as below:




                                                            Good               Average           Poor


Number of respondents                      999                  38                    8

Percentage of respondents                96%                 4%                   1%

Overall Rating - Good




                                                            Good               Average           Poor


Number of respondents                      84                    41                    259

Percentage of respondents                22%                 11%                 67%

Overall Rating - Average




                                                            Good               Average           Poor


Number of respondents                      185                  12                    67

Percentage of respondents                70%                 5%                   25%

Overall Rating - Average


The Web feedback remained the area where there were 259 instances of negative feedback but it needed to be seen in the context of over 300,000 website visits since 1 April 2019 which therefore represented approximately 1% dissatisfaction. Officers had noted that as the website matured the amount of negative feedback had fallen substantially. The current feedback identified issues such as problems around paying rent or finding out how to report or apply for items. This had been recognised and work was ongoing to solve these issues.


In April and May 2019 there had been 25 complaints submitted to the Council, 23 had been resolved and 2 have progressed to stage 2, which related to Council Tax and Planning.


Whilst no particular area of concern or opportunity could be specifically identified from the report, the customer engagement process would be brought together corporately and evolve in the future to bring customer need closer to the heart of future design. This work will be brought back to the next Select Committee for Members to scrutinise and make recommendations accordingly.


R Pavey added that Members were also customers of this service and that he would engage with all Members in the consultation process to make sure Members were happy with the service.


The Chairman commented on  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.


Dates of Future Meetings

To note that future meetings of the Select Committee will be held at 7.00pm on:


·                 01 October 2019;

·                 21 January 2020; and

·                 21 April 2020.

Additional documents:


It was noted that future meetings of the Select Committee would be held at 7.00pm on:


·        01 October 2019;

·        21 January 2020; and

·        21 April 2020.