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) People Strategy
Councillor S Heather asked the Leader whether he could assure members that the People Strategy was proceeding as planned.
Councillor C Whitbread advised that the People Strategy was progressing as planned and 77% of roles had gone to internal candidates before any external recruitment had taken place. There had been no significant increase in leavers compared to previous years and he was confident that the process would make the Council stronger.
(b) Ivy Chimneys, Epping
Councillor J H Whitehouse asked whether the meeting mentioned in the Contacts and Technical Services Portfolio Holder report about Ivy Chimneys, in Epping was the meeting she had arranged on 14 November 2019.
Councillor C Whitbread replied on behalf of the Contacts and Technical Services Portfolio Holder and advised that he would asked Councillor N Avey and report back to Councillor J H Whitehouse.
(c) Company Group Structure
Councillor S Murray asked the Commercial and Regulatory Portfolio Holder whether he considered the appointment process for the Company Group Structure democratic and acceptable for the level of appointments made.
Councillor A Patel advised that he and Councillor S Stavrou in consultation the Chairman of Overview and Scrutiny, Councillor M. Sartin had requested that a report on the Company Group Structure and recent achievements would be brought to the next Overview and Scrutiny Committee, for members to consider and scrutinize.
(d) Recent Dispersal Order issued in Theydon Bois
Councillor S Jones asked the Community and Partnerships Portfolio Holder following the recent requirement of a Dispersal Order in Theydon Bois village centre on 31 October 2019; whether any other Dispersal Order’s had issued in the District and whether EFDC Police had been deployed.
Councillor N Bedford advised that a total of 24 officers had been deployed over the District on 31 October 2019, which had been a mix of Council Police teams, Loughton Community Police, 4 Park Guard Officers and 2 EFDC CCTV operators based on a geographical requirement.
A substantial number of fireworks had been seized and destroyed in Debden; a Dispersal Order was issued in Theydon Bois; and criminal damage had been reported in Epping High Street which had been caused by fireworks. There had been no arrests made and the Police had advised if anyone could identify youths in the CCTV images in Epping, residents could report the information either online or to Community officers anonymously.
(e) Company Group Structure
Councillor H Kauffman asked the Commercial and Regulatory Portfolio Holder about the establishment of the Council Group Company and for further information on the following;
(i) what the company entailed;
(ii) whether a process could be put into place to ensure members of the Council were satisfied with development programme;
(iii) what the Council’s liability was;
(iv) what the remit of the company was; and
(v) whether there was a non-executive director to ensure checks and balances were made.
Councillor A Patel asked that the Councillor H Kauffman put his questions in writing and he would consult with officers and reply to him in writing.
(f) Funding for Police Community Hub
Councillor D Sunger asked the Community and Partnership Portfolio Holder whether further funding would be made available for the Police Community Hub in the future.
Councillor N Bedford advised that funding would be made available and it had been included in the budget going forward, to renew the contract and maintain the Police Officer levels following the successful reduction in crime across the District.
(g) Transport for London (TfL), Local Plan Car Park Sites
Councillor C C Pond asked whether any communication had been received from TfL regarding their car park sites for housing development suggested in the Local Plan.
Councillor J Philip advised that the advice from the Planning Inspector had been to limit the size of all development on the TfL Car Park Sites, suggested in the Local Plan. A meeting had taken place with TfL although no decision and he would keep members informed of any progress.
(h) Climate Emergency Motion
Councillor S Neville asked the Leader of Council that following the approval of Council on 19 September 2019, to declare a Climate Emergency;
(a) when would the Council publish an action plan on how they would achieve the target to become carbon neutral by 2030;
(b) how would the Council monitor carbon emissions in the Epping Forest area to achieve the target; and
(c) when would a Cabinet member be appointed to lead on this item.
Councillor C Whitbread advised that a response would be issued in the Members Bulletin and a Cabinet appointment would be considered at the next Cabinet meeting.
(i) Enforcement of Construction Work and Damage to Highways and Verges
Councillor M Sartin asked the Planning Services Portfolio Holder whether the Council could follow the examples of the Council mentioned in his report regarding enforcement on owners/developers to repair any damage to footways, verges etc associated with their developments.
Councillor J Philip advised that the Council were looking at several ways to ensure that damage was repaired, which included larger application sites being asked for a Construction Methodology Statement and linking that to a section 106 agreement in conjunction with Highways authority. With regards to smaller applications, consideration was being giving to a unilateral undertaking on behalf of the developer to take a view of the status of the footways and verges before the development starts and at the end of the process, to ensure that the Council could act without the involvement of the Highway authorities.
(j) Electric Charging Points in Council Car Parking
Councillor R Brookes asked the Contracts and Technical Services Portfolio Holder whether the Council would consider putting more electric charging points in Council owned car parks in the District.
Councillor A Lion answered on behalf of the Contracts and Technical Portfolio Holder and advised that there were a number of car parks with a power supply and the Council was looking into providing electric points. Although considerations had to be given between the usage of the electric charging point and the usage of the car parking space being required for other users, as this was also a criteria issue for the District.
(k) Proposed Reduce TfL Service on the Central Line
Councillor G Mohindra asked the Contacts and Technical Services Portfolio Holder to write to TfL about the proposed reduction in services which was incongruous with people using public transport and to urge the London Mayor to reconsider this decision.
Councillor A Lion answered on behalf of the Contracts and Technical Portfolio Holder and advised that a Change.org petition had been set up for this issue which had received over 8,500 signatures. He advised that he would be writing to TfL and would like to see them attend a future meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
(l) Highway Rangers
Councillor P Stalker asked the Community and Partnerships Portfolio Holder when the Highway Rangers would be available again to local residents.
Councillor N Bedford advised that the Council was in negotiations for the return of the Highway Rangers and expenditure had been included in the budget for 2020/21. Essex County Council would be funding the Highway Rangers and the Council would be adding an additional £20,000. Once the negotiations had been completed he would advise members through the Members Bulletin.
(m) Company Group Structure
Councillor J M Whitehouse asked the Commercial and Regulatory Portfolio Holder for assurances that the report provided to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 19 November 2019 regarding the Company Group Structure would provide the relevant financial information and details required for members to scrutinise.
Councillor A Patel advised that the report provided would be suitably detailed, although some information may be commercial sensitive and not publicly available.
(n) Customers Hub, North Weald
Councillor P Bolton asked the Leader of the Council what progress had been made on the financial agreement with North Weald Parish Council from the lease of land at North Weald Airfield to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
Councillor C Whitbread advised that he had attended a recent meeting at North Weald Parish Council with the Chief Executive to discuss some local issues, where they were able to hand over these funds.
(o) Service Delivery
Councillor D Plummer asked the Business Services Portfolio Holder whether she could assure members that the trade unions representing staff at the Council had been fully consulted and engaged with the restructuring process. In addition, members of the public were experiencing difficulties speaking to staff and were finding that queries were not being answered and whether this was linked to their work loads.
Councillor C Whitbread advised that if this was in relation to a letter sent to members from a member of Unison, he believed that this was not the correct forum to discuss the issues raised. He believed some elements of the letter to be incorrect and he had every confidence in the process of the People Strategy. He would be responding to the Unison letter shortly.
(p) Stewardship – Garden Town
Councillor D Wixley asked the Planning Services Portfolio Holder whether the stakeholder event for members and representatives from town/parish council mentioned in his report was open to all members.
Councillor J Philip advised that this meeting was not opened to all members as it related to the future stewardship of the Harlow & Gilston Garden Town and what the right model would be for Gilston, Water Lane, Latton Priory and the east of Harlow areas.
(q) Local Plan
Councillor S Heap asked the Planning Services Portfolio Holder what the current financial cost of the Local Plan was and when would the use of consultants cease in this area.
Councillor J Philip advised that there were several stages still to complete and at this point in the process it would not be advantageous to change the consultants. At the next Cabinet meeting there would be a progress report on the Local Plan and he would update members with a current cost.
(r) Parking Charges
Councillor D Plummer asked the Strategic Projects Portfolio Holder what could be done about the disparity between parking permits and residents permits in areas such as Waltham Abbey, as it was having a detrimental effect on residents with cars parking on pavements.
Councillor A Lion advised that all parking charges were being considered and he would come back to Councillor D Plummer.
(s) Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN)
Councillor J H Whitehouse asked the Commercial and Regulatory Portfolio Holder whether he was aware that in order for offenders to receive an FPN for air pollution, an officer had to first ask the offender to switch off their engine. This therefore enabled the offender to escape FNP, which differ to other FNP offenses.
Councillor A Patel advised that officers followed the legislation in regards to FNP for air pollution.
(t) New Hospital
Councillor J Lea asked the Commercial and Regulatory Portfolio Holder if he could update members on the announced new purpose built hospital, to be built the District.
Councillor A Patel advised that confirmation of a new hospital had been received in September 2019, which looked to relocate the Princess Alexander Hospital in Harlow to a new site in the District by 2025. The site identified was near the newly proposed M11 Junction 7a and confirmation was being sought from the Minster of Health.
Councillor J Philip added that area had been identified in the Local Plan as part of the allocation for the East of Harlow and it would be a significant asset in the District.