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This virtual meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to unmute 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 (or filmed) and will be capable of repeated viewing (or another use by such third parties). Thereby by participating in this virtual meeting, you are consenting to being filmed and to the possible use of those images and sound recordings for webcasting and/or training purposes. If members of the public do not wish to have their image captured they should ensure that their video setting throughout the virtual meeting is turned off and set to audio only.
Please also be aware that if technical difficulties interrupt the meeting that cannot be overcome, I may need to adjourn the meeting.”
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.
To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.
There were no substitute members reported at the meeting.
Declarations of Interest
To declare interests in any item on the agenda.
There were no declarations of interest made pursuant to the Council’s Code of Member Conduct.
To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 4 February 2020.
Cllr D Wixley stated that he didn’t have any issues with the notes of the last meeting but would like to advise the Select Committee on an issue he had raised at the last meeting regarding page 12, Item 29 of the notes, Community Safety Partnership Annual Report.
He stated that at the last meeting he had referred to the nitrous oxide cannisters which were being used and littered all over the district and asked what could be done to prevent this.
The Epping Forest Youth Council had been working on a project regarding nitrous oxide cannisters and they had produced a booklet which was sent to the three MP’s who cover the Epping Forest District and the Police and Crime Commissioner. The outcome of the project was it could only be dealt with in the Houses of Parliament and today I heard on the radio that MP’s will be debating this in Parliament. This is excellent news especially as our Epping Forest Youth Council have played a part in getting this to be debated in Parliament.
(1) That the minutes of the meeting held on 4 February 2020 be taken as read and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
(Chairman/Lead Officer) The Overview and Scrutiny Committee have agreed the Terms of Reference and work programme for this Select Committee. Members are invited at each meeting to review both documents.
The Chairman, Councillor D Sunger 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 22 June 2020.
(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.
Councillor J H Whitehouse advised that at the meeting in October 2019 she had asked for a list of the policy review and development and relevant projects that were already taking place so that Members knew which topics were encompassed by this Select Committee and could then decide if there was anything that the Select Committee Members would like to know more about. She also stated that she had also reminded officers at the meeting on 4 February 2020 and to date nothing had been presented to the Select Committee.
The Customer Services Director, R Pavey advised that he would speak to the lead Officer, N Dawe and bring something back to the next Select Committee.
(b) Work Programme
The 2020/21 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.
Councillor J H Whitehouse advised that she would prefer to see a quarterly report of the Customer Services update to either accompany the presentation or instead of the presentation as she felt there were far too many presentations and not enough reports for the Select Committee to scrutinise.
(1) That a list of the policy review and development and relevant projects would be distributed to Members of the Select Committee as soon as the information was available;
(2) That the Terms of Reference of the Select Committee be noted; and
(3) That the Work Programme of the Select Committee be noted.
GROW Community Garden
To receive a presentation from Heidi Chow of the GROW Community Garden based in Loughton. The Grow Community Garden is an inclusive community garden in Loughton which bring people together in a safe and supportive outdoor space to grow organic vegetables.
Heidi Chow, Project Co-ordinator of the Grow Community Garden was invited to give a presentation to the Select Committee to demonstrate the voluntary work that she did in the community.
The Grow Community Garden were a community food growing project based in Loughton. Their vision was to bring people from across the community to a safe and supportive environment to grow organic vegetables together.
In April 2016 Loughton Town Council offered a piece of land in Loughton to the Grow Community. The land was an overgrown piece of waste land covered in weeds and brambles. They accepted Loughton Town Council’s offer and work began in clearing the land and making it into the community garden that it was today. The Grow Community applied and were successful in securing grants through the Council’s Grant Aid Scheme, this has enabled the group to grow the scheme and provide essential equipment to be able to continue. Recently they been able to buy and erect a poly tunnel which gives the only shelter on the land and enables the volunteers to shelter and protects the young vegetable plants from the weather elements.
There were two sessions which ran weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays and they were open all year round. Under normal circumstances this project was a drop in basis and all volunteers were provided with lunch and refreshments. Since Covid-19 they have still been open, practising social distancing and asking volunteers to bring in their own food and drink.
People of all ages volunteer and they have a say in the construction and planning of the site. A range of community events were held throughout the year such as:
· Easter egg hunt which has been running for 3 years; and
· Family and children workshops.
We have partnerships with schools, colleges and offenders who pay back to the community by doing supervised work in the district. Attending weekly were people from ELC Loughton Day Centre who support people with learning disabilities and autism and Oak View School in Loughton who support 3-19 years olds with special educational needs.
The food that was grown was taken home by the volunteers who attend the group and anything left would be donated to the local community.
Benefits of community food growing
· Builds community especially for people who were socially isolated;
· Promotes health and wellbeing;
· Helps build skills - intergenerational skill sharing, helps unemployed people to build skills and confidence; and
· Sustainable environment – learning how to grow organic vegetables.
The Grow Community brings people together in all walks of life, it builds confidence and self esteem helping people to interact with each other, learning new skills, sharing ideas and treating each other with respect.
The Chairman thanked Ms Chow for attending the Select Committee and for giving a very interesting presentation to the Select Committee. He asked if they had a website and thought it would be a good idea to promote this initiative to other Councils.
Heidi Chow advised that their website was Growloughton.org.uk
Councillor S ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
To consider the attached report.
Deborah Fenton, Service Manager, Housing Management and Home Ownership presented a report to the Select Committee regarding the impact of Covid-19 and the delivery of services relating to income delivery and asked the Select Committee to note the report.
She advised that the report set out the impact of Covid-19 on the collection of rent, in particular it highlighted the increase when compared with the same period in 2019. The report also gave some insight into the impact on the income of individuals as indicated by the increase in Universal Credit claims.
The report provided an overview of the measures being taken to support residents whilst also working to protect the rental income, therefore providing some certainty for the HRA account.
Incoming telephone calls
The emergence of Covid-19 and the lockdown in March of this year led to an understandable level of concern and worry for the residents of the Council, which cumulated in a significant increase in telephone calls, up by over 100% in March. The analysis of calls pointed to many residents being concerned about their ability to pay their rent due to being furloughed or losing their jobs. A small number of people were confused regarding the Governments message around mortgage and credit card holidays, this led to the team diverting resources to cover the vast increase in telephone calls. Although the number of calls have dropped dramatically since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, the volume of calls was not yet at a pre-Covid-19 level, this was impacting on the team’s ability to provide targeted services to those people who have levels of debt.
The evidence highlighted that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the income of the Councils’ residents and an increase in the numbers of applicants claiming Universal Credit, it should be noted that there was a delay of at least 5 weeks before an applicant receives their first Universal Credit payment, thereby increasing rent arrears in the short term. Claimant of Universal Credit can ask for a loan, but this loan would have to be paid back out of their Universal Credit payments over the next 12 months, thereby reducing the claimants Universal Credit claim for the next 12 months.
Managed Universal Credit Cases
Further to the increase in overall cases there had been an increase in the number of managed cases. Officers can request to manage payments on behalf of residents who were struggling with managing their Universal Credit payments, these were usually people with vulnerabilities. Additional support was being offered to all residents who were experiencing difficulties, this was in addition to the Council’s current responsibilities under the pre action protocol.
Overall Impact on rent arrears
Compared with income received at the same time last year the increase in arrears was as follows:
This would suggest a levelling out of arrears which was positive given that lockdown restrictions were only just beginning to be lifted. The team were continuing to take a ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Customer Services - Q1 Update
To receive a presentation on Customer Services and What our Customers are telling us.
R Pavey, Service Director (Customer Services) gave a presentation on the Customer Service, Stronger Community Quarter 1 update. He advised the Select Committee that the report provided an update on the Quarter 1 Customer Services performance.
During Quarter 1 there had been a 34% reduction in the Contact Centre staffing levels due to , sickness, staff leavers and a delay in recruiting new staff due to Covid-19. Staff were brought in from other service areas and the team achieved 49.44% first point resolution of customer calls.
Complaints received were reduced by 20 from the previous quarter, which may partly ne due to the fact that all Managers have now received training on diffusing situations to prevent them turning into an official complaint.
Our current performance
The website received 230,179 hits, there were 119 complaints received due to temporary broken links, missing information on composting, a requirement for a third bin, missing addresses on the waste calendar and accessibility issues with the self service portal for Council Tax and Business Rates, these issues have now been resolved.
First point resolution
The team had achieved 49.44% first point resolution of customer calls compared to the same quarter for 2019/20 of 37.31%. There had been a gradual increase over the last three months:
As more areas transition into the contact centre the team were upskilled to resolve more queries at first point of contact.
Compliments and Complaints
Many compliments had been received on waste for maintaining services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Q1 there had been 41 complaints received in Q4 of 2019/20 61 complaints had been received. Recently managers had received training on defusing situations so that an official complaint would not be raised. 88% of complaints were resolved in Q1 compared to 92% in Q4 of 2019/20.
Planning received the most complaints by residents unhappy with applications from neighbours.
Waste received complaints regarding contaminated recycling, waste not collected and 2 insurance claims where Biffa had hit parked cars.
Revenues received complaints from customers unhappy that they were not getting business grants quickly enough or not qualifying for a business grant.
What customers were telling us
Covid-19 was the major topic of customer feedback. In recent weeks the focus had moved from lockdown to the reopening of local high streets, including the hospitality industry. In common with other Local Authorities, Epping Forest District Council have recovery plans that meet with mixed online reactions.
While many local residents understand and support the local and national response to Covid-19, a critical group believe that many of the steps advocated to reduce and halt the spread of the disease were unnecessary.
These comments were common across social media channels nationally and internationally. It was important not to take such comments as being necessarily a reflection of wider public mood or opinion.
For example and by contrast, following the launch of the Safer Spaces Commonplace consultation up to 6 July, the website received 2,021 visitors with ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
To consider the attached report.
Fabrizio Ferrari, Public Health Improvement Officer gave an annual presentation regarding the Epping Forest Health & Wellbeing Strategy 2018-2028.
The Epping Forest Health & Wellbeing Board was made up of representatives from Epping Forest District Council, Essex County Council Public Health, the West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and a wide range of health providers and third sector organisations.
In March 2018, following an extensive consultation, the multi-agency Board formally adopted and launched the Epping Forest Health & Wellbeing Strategy 2018-28.
The Strategy set out the partnership`s vision, priorities and aims to improve the health and wellbeing of everyone living in the district, with a particular focus on tackling the health inequalities that exist.
To facilitate the development and delivery of projects and initiatives to improve the health and wellbeing of local residents, three multi-agency Action Groups have been established as follows:
The Epping Forest Health & Wellbeing Board and Action Groups annually review key local priorities and develop Action Plans in line with these. Consistently across all age ranges priorities continue to be; the need to support positive mental health, increase physical activity, combat loneliness and isolation and encourage healthy relationships. A priority specific to the Age Well Action Group continues to be the need to support older people to live healthy, happy lives independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
Following the Covid pandemic the Board was keen to focus even more on a whole systems approach in order to support local communities and residents to meet the challenges ahead.
Epping Forest Health and Wellbeing Strategy key priorities
The strategic priorities were to:
· Improve the mental health of residents of all ages
· Increase physical activity
· Tackle loneliness and social isolation
· Increase safe and independent living at home.
Health and wellbeing Board Structure
Health and Wellbeing in Epping Forest
Physical Activity: 60.5% of adults were physically active, however only 21.8% of adults were doing enough physical activity to benefit their health and wellbeing. The guidance came from the Chief Medical Officer, he advised that by exercising 3 times a week for 30 minutes would benefit health.
Obesity: This was a huge issue both nationally and locally. 63.9% of adults in the district and 17.9% of 10-11 year olds were overweight or obese.
Smoking: 20.2% of adults were smokers.
Dementia: 1,780 people aged over 65 in Epping Forest were thought to have dementia. This figure was estimated to rise to ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
DATES OF FUTURE MEETINGS
It was noted that future meetings of the Select Committee would be held at 7.00pm on: