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.
(a) Car Idling and Parking Zones around the Districts Schools
Councillor D Plummer asked the Commercial and Regulatory Portfolio Holder whether he would assist with the introduction of no parking zones around all schools in the District at opening and closing times; and consider introducing walk and stride schemes.
Councillor A Patel advised that no parking zones around schools could be problematic and it would have to be explored thoroughly with consideration also to parents dropping off and collecting their children. The walk and stride schemes were dependent on capacity and location, although many schools did run their own initiatives.
(b) Bus Idling
Councillor C C Pond asked the Commercial and Regulatory Portfolio Holder whether he would arrange for Environment and Neighbourhood Officers to visit Epping Underground Station and issue fixed penalty notices, if bus drivers refused to turn off their engines whilst stationary.
Councillor A Patel advised that it would involve partnership working with the Police and he would look into this.
(c) Youth Council
Councillor J McIvor asked the Community and Partnership Services Portfolio Holder what feedback had been received concerning the Youth Council’s ‘We R Safe’ project following the launch event?
Councillor N Bedford advised that the launch event had been well attended by many dignitaries and a letter from the Assistant Private Secretary to The Queen, Matt Magee had acknowledged the successful work of the Youth Council.
(d) Building Control
Councillor S Rackham asked the Commercial and Regulatory Portfolio Holder whether the Council had the capacity to cope with an increase in Approved Inspections following a few private building control companies not being able to obtain insurance; and whether the Council had evaluated its own insurance in relation to these services following the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Councillor A Patel advised that if Approved Inspectors ceased to trade, the responsibility would fall to the local authority. A number of private practices had ceased following issues experienced with insurance companies trying to limit their liabilities. Further investigations had revealed that around 50 projects had been left outstanding at different stages and might revert back to the Council.
The Building Control Manager had discussed the Council’s insurance policies and certain measures had been requested, which were being discussed with the Risk Management Officer, although they were not considered to affect the current premiums.
Councillor P Stalker asked the Community and Partnership Services Portfolio Holder whether he would engage with the Epping Town Council to provide cycle stands at the southern end of the high street, to attract and promote further cycling in the District.
Councillor N Bedford advised that he would ask officers to approach Epping Town Council and this should set a precedent for these types of facilities in all the high streets in the District.
(f) Sub-letting Council Houses
Councillor J Jennings asked the Housing and Property Services Portfolio Holder what measures the Council had in place to prevent the sub-letting of council properties in the District; and whether the Council planned to follow Westminster City Council’s scheme by creating a register for short term letting.
Councillor H Whitbread advised that she was aware of the issue and the Council would take action on sub-letting, as it was against the law with fines set by the courts and potential eviction from the property. She would take the suggestion of a registration scheme back to officers for consideration.
(g) Council Houses
Councillor J Lea asked the Housing and Property Services Portfolio Holder what measures the Council had taken to ensure that the properties being built by the Council were energy efficient.
Councillor H Whitbread advised that council houses were built to a code for sustainable homes and smart meters had been installed in all properties along with solar panels, cycle racks and consideration to accessible transport.
(h) Police Officers
Councillor D Sunger asked the Community and Partnership Services Portfolio Holder how many Police Officers had been recruited following the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner’s recent roadshows, where he had advised that around 300 Police Officers were to be employed.
Councillor N Bedford advised that he was not aware of the figure, although the Government had also announced a further desire to recruit 20,000 Officers.
(i) Traveller Incursion
Councillor G Mohindra asked the Community and Partnership Portfolio Holder whether he could comment on the quick removal of a traveller incursion at a cricket ground in Buckhurst Hill.
Councillor N Bedford advised that the Police had been actively involved in the removal in liaison with the Councils Community Officers. Councillor A Patel advised that it highlighted the partnership working with the Cricket Club, Policing team based at the Council, Enforcement Officers and Parish Council to conclude the removal within 48 hours.
(j) Protesters at Dobbs Weir, Nazeing
Councillor Y Knight asked the Community and Partnership Services Portfolio Holder that following the recent protest of 600 Environmental Activists at the land opposite the Rye House Power Station; who would be paying for the Police presences; whether it would have an impact on future Policing services for the community in the financial year; and whether he could obtain the Police report on the handling of this.
Councillor N Bedford advised that it was still an ongoing investigation between Kent Police other areas of Essex. He advised that the costs would probably be absorbed by all the Police forces involved and he would report back to members on the handling of the investigation at the next meeting.
(k) Local Plan
Councillor J M Whitehouse asked the Planning Services Portfolio Holder whether he was aware of how long the delay would be following the Examination in Public of the Local Plan and what the effects of these delays would be.
Councillor J Philip advised that unfortunately he was not aware how long the delay would be, although hoped to hear something before the next Council meeting. He advised that he could not confirm what the effects of the delay would be, although officers were continuing to work on other issues, to complete the Local Plan and concentrate on the consultation period which was hoped for the Autumn 2019.
(l) Clean Air
Councillor J H Whitehouse asked the Commercial and Regulatory Services Portfolio Holder whether he would initiate a District wide campaign to remind drivers to turn off their engines when not necessary and to advise of the health implications and pollution caused by idling.
Councillor A Patel advised that it was an important to issue to promote to all residents, to make them aware of the implications of idling. Furthermore, the Council had received an Essex travel grant, which would help schools set up walking buses and reduce pollution and promote the clear air campaign.
(m) Princess of Wales, Westall Road, Loughton
Councillor D Wixley advised that the former Princess of Wales Public House in Westall Road, Loughton had been covered in graffiti and been subject to fly tipping, making it a very unattractive sight for residents in the area. Could the Housing and Property Portfolio give a further update.
Councillor H Whitbread advised that she would contact officers and report back to Councillor D Wixley.
(n) Green Space
Councillor S Heap asked the Planning Services whether he considered easy accessible green spaces, as set out in the Harlow Gilson Garden Town project as important.
Councillor J Philip advised that with the emerging Local Plan there were many issues to take into consideration and the District had 92.4% of green belt area. There was a balance to be made between housing and green spaces and other supporting infrastructure.
(o) Senior Management Selection Panel
Councillor C P Pond asked the Leader why the Senior Management Selection Panel had not met or been kept informed regarding the appointment of the new Strategic Directors on an interim basis.
Councillor C Whitbread advised that there had been capacity issue and he and the Chief Executive had decided to put in place, Interim Strategic Directors which had been an executive decision. A briefing would be made available shortly regarding the top level of management and the Senior Management Panel would consider any recruitments to permanent Strategic Directors positions.
(p) Clear Air
Councillor L Burrows asked the Commercial and Regulatory Portfolio Holder how awareness of the Clear Air campaign was run across the District.
Councillor A Patel advised that Public Health function was split across Commercial and Regulatory Services and Community and Partnership Services Portfolios and a number of campaigns were running over a municipal year. There were resource implications and the Council were heavily reliant on the nursery, primary and secondary schools promoting some of these campaigns. Furthermore it had been proposed that a cross-council Public Health Working Group would be set up to consider clean air, obesity and social isolation.