Swine flu in Epping Forest

Catch It Bin It Kill It poster

The government’s swine flu leaflet (download PDF here) dropped through my letter box this week, hot on the heels of news of the first (and I sincerely hope only) local case of swine flu.

I was surprised at how long the advice leaflet was. Sadly the very basic design means it isn’t a particularly user-friendly read. Given the importance of the information that the leaflet is meant to convey and the time and attention that goes into marketing and communications these days I expected something more arresting than slabs of text and some boxes.

This must be a consequence of the need to get it designed and distributed in double-quick time: printing 25 million leaflets is not something that can be done overnight and perhaps didn’t leave time for much creative input (other than the deeply unattractive image on the front page).

Swine flu advice number 0800 1 513 513

There is a comprehensive list of sources of advice on the Epping Forest District Council website here with links to everyone from our local NHS Primary Care Trust to the World Health Organisation. So far swine flu has not proved as devastating as was first feared but we are told it may yet spread much further. I am glad that the government and local emergency planning teams have prepared for far worse to happen – but I hope they never need to put their plans fully into practice.

Icelandic investment will lead to losses

I’m glad to see that after some grim predictions about the likelihood of recovering the £2½ million that Epping Forest District Council invested with the Icelandic-owned Heritable Bank, things now look slightly more positive. The council’s Director of Financial Services gave us an update on the situation at last night’s Cabinet meeting. He now expects that 70-80 per cent of the money will be returned. The FT takes a similar view.

Of course this will still mean a loss of up to £750,000, which is a very substantial amount and would go a long way towards funding some of the capital projects the council is involved in.

Unfortunately that isn’t all local taxpayers will lose. I asked whether the council would get back the interest due on its investment. The answer revealed that the council will only recover interest from the period between when it was invested until the date the bank went into administration in October. We’ll lose all the interest that would have been received from then until whenever  the money is finally returned. I can’t remember at what rate the money was invested, but any percentage of £2½ million is a substantial sum.

Railing repairs – at last!

Lib Dem campaigner Lorraine Collier highlights the county council’s failiure to repair Epping High Street’s broken railingsThis picture was taken in March 2007 – and the railings in Epping High Street were well overdue for repair then! Since then I’ve often contacted the county council about their failure to repair or replace them. At different times the reasons for delay have included the need to place a special order, the difficulty of sourcing matching stock, the need to obtain funding from Chelmsford (where the county council is based) and staff shortages.

So I was pleased today to receive an email confirming that repair works are due to start in two week’s time.  I won’t quite believe it until I see workers are on site (delays caused by more snow anyone?) but let’s hope by the end of the month residents no longer have to put up with the red plastic ‘temporary’ barriers spoiling what is mostly a very attractive street.

Snow hits rubbish and recycling collections

Unsurprisingly, the recent poor weather has hit local refuse collections. (After all almost every other service seems to have been affected.) One of the more unexpected consequences of the freezing temperatures has apparently been that blue boxes containing glass recycling have frozen to the pavement.

The clear sack collections should have gone back to normal today (Thursday) but the green waste collection service has been suspended until Monday 16 February. I suppose there can’t be much gardening going on at the moment anyway.

The council has issued the following revised timetable for wheelie bin collections:

  • The Monday 2 February collection is rescheduled to Friday 6 February 2009
  • The Tuesday 3 February collection is rescheduled to Saturday 7 February 2009
  • The Wednesday 4 February collection is rescheduled to Monday 9 February 2009
  • The Thursday 5 February collection is rescheduled to Tuesday 10 February 2009
  • The Friday 6 February collection is rescheduled to Wednesday 11 February 2009

Unless things change again when the snow predicted for Friday arrives.

Do we want advertising hoardings on our roundabouts?

The district council has been casting about for ways of generating cash. As a result it has submitted a planning application (to itself!) requesting permission to erect advertising hoardings at 15 locations on roundabouts across the district.

I will be interested to see how this is received. When the same idea was put forward several years ago it was withdrawn quite swiftly because various people were unhappy at the prospect of advertising and further ‘clutter’ in Epping Forest.This has not deterred the Conservatives from including the Wake Arms and Robin Hood roundabouts in the current application, as well as other roundabouts in less sensitive locations. As far as I can see from the information on the district council website, the City of London (which is responsible for Epping Forest) hasn’t been asked for its views.

The council hopes to erect up to three hoardings per roundabout (5 feet by about 2½ feet) mounted on poles. You can find out more using the council’s new online planning service: the application number is EPF/1814/2008.

On the doorstep

Epping Forest’s Liberal Democrat councillors met this morning to discuss the agenda for the council meeting on Tuesday week and other forthcoming issues. As various members reported back on the work they were doing and the issues they were pursuing I was struck by how much work goes on behind the scenes that must be totally invisible to most residents.

Sometimes this is because the work concerns individuals and it isn’t appropriate to make the details public. Sometimes it is long term work that may or may not come to fruition. At other times it is simply too obscure or complex to be of wide interest. But often we simply don’t think to tell people, although we try to make sure the most important bits of news are covered by our Focus newsletters and at www.eflibdems.org.uk. Part of the reason for starting this mini-blog is to try and report back more frequently about the things which I and my Lib Dem colleagues are doing.

This afternoon Janet Whitehouse and I knocked on doors in Epping and Coopersale to thank people for supporting us in the elections in May and discuss local issues. A few people were surprised to find us on their doorsteps outside of election time but we think it is important to keep in touch all year round. As usual we both picked up several issues we need to pursue, including some speeding traffic issues to raise with Essex County Council. As a bonus four people volunteered to help deliver our Focus newsletters.

If you can help deliver Focus in your road (ideally every two to three months) please drop me a line at jon.whitehouse@eflibdems.org.uk.