05 October 2021 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 5 October 2021 at 6:30pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall.
Cllrs B Austin, D Bretherton, P Cowell (Town Mayor), M Deacock, A Dite, D Dodds, L Emery, H Fickling, C Jones, A Midwinter, H Richards, J Tipping, and T Wyse
C Pinnells, Acting Town Clerk
K Slater, Office Administration Manager / Acting Responsible Financial Officer
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Cllrs Champken-Woods (personal), Dyer (council business), and Gregory (personal).
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
Cllr Emery declared an interest in Item 5 as a volunteer with Thame Youth Projects. This was not a pecuniary interest and did not preclude Cllr Emery from debating or voting on this item
3 Public Participation and Public Questions
There were no applications to address the Council.
There were no public questions put to the Council.
The minutes of the Council meeting held on 10 August 2021 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Mayor.
5 Community Youth Centre Working Group – Feasibility Report
The Acting Town Clerk presented the Feasibility Report for the Community Youth Centre in Thame, as per Full Council’s instructions to investigate the feasibility and suitability of Southern Road Recreation Ground (SRRG) and other Town Centre sites for the centre. Mr. Alex Stevens, of Acanthus Clews Architects, was available to answer any questions. Members were asked to receive the feasibility report and approve the location for the centre. It was noted that the feasibility report was recommending SRRG as the preferred site location.
A question was raised as to whether the report was recommending a particular layout / shape of the building at SRRG? Mr Stevens advised that at this stage, the report focus was on the location of the centre and, once the location had been agreed, the specific detail on design and layout would be investigated and include a consultation with the Town Council and community.
A question was raised with regards to the expected cost of the building. Mr Stevens advised that there was S106 funding available however costs were not considered at this stage as the focus was to design for requirements not a budget. A quantity surveyor would be instructed to assess the budget and cost of the building, once a design had been prepared.
Members raised other points relating to the preferred specific location for the building at SRRG and whether it could incorporate the scouts / guides. There was great potential for the site however this would be subject to consultation and at this stage the focus was on the preferred overall site for the centre, rather than design considerations. It was noted that the scouts / guides were supportive of SRRG as the site for the centre.
Members thanked Mr. Stevens for a superb report that clearly outlined the pros and cons of each site.
- Southern Road Recreation Ground be approved as the location for the Community Youth Centre in Thame.
6 Town Hall Telephone System
The Acting RFO & Office Administration Manager explained that the Town Hall telephone system was outdated, and the contract was due for renewal. Furthermore, the ISDN lines currently used in the office will be disconnected in a few years. Over the last 18 months, the pandemic had highlighted various flaws with the existing telephone system, such as being unable to transfer calls externally. The telephone system is not suitable for efficient working and does not provide a professional service to callers. Eight companies were contacted to quote for the telephone system replacement and invited to the town hall to view the existing system. As part of the new contract, the companies were asked to provide a telephone system that had the ability to divert calls when working from home, a programmable answerphone system with customizable messages, call recording for Officer training, external call redirecting, and to provide installation and training on the new system and additional handsets for growth in the team. All companies recommended a cloud-based system that used Wi-Fi and enhanced boosters to minimise disruption. The Acting RFO was recommending a five-year contract with Company A, having reviewed the proposals that were received. Company A were offering the equipment free of charge and would provide the same services as existing at a cost saving of £200 a year. If the system is not replaced, there is a risk that the equipment could be damaged or unusable. Furthermore, the telephone system is an important service for the public and needs to support Officers in working efficiently in the office and at home.
Concerns were raised regarding a cloud-based system given the ongoing Wi-Fi issues in the office. The system would use the ethernet cables and this should avoid disruption currently experienced when connected to the wireless internet and would be supported by boosters too. The Acting RFO had received reassurances from the companies that a cloud-based system would not be problematic.
A question was raised with regards to the reputation of Company A, given their good value compared to the other companies? The Acting RFO advised all companies have high calibre and Company A is very reputable.
Regarding the tender process, companies were asked to quote for a fixed price 3-year and 5-year contract, the latter having bigger savings. All quotes had been compared in terms of their total offering and the top three were the most economically priced.
A question was raised with regards to the capabilities of the telephones, and whether they may become outdated as technology evolved? The telephones would be software-based and therefore updated regularly and would be connected to Officer’s laptops to facilitate video calls.
Concern was raised with regards to potential disruption given the various changes that were being proposed. The Acting RFO advised that there would be a 4-week turnaround on delivery, with 1-week required for installation and providing training to Officers, which Company A were offering free of charge.
Members thanked the Acting RFO for her hard work and achieving a cost-saving.
- A new 5-year Telephone System contract with support / maintenance be agreed with Company A.
7 P20/S4801/RM – DAF Trucks Ltd, Kingsmead Business Park – Amendment No.3
It was noted that having reviewed the amended plans and additional information received 8 September 2021, Officers consider that they would not alter the Town Council’s recommendation to Support the application made on 10 August 2021. The amendments relate to technical matters including a detailed arboricultural scheme, hard and soft landscaping, drainage, fine details on play equipment, some materials on houses and very specific details on materials and widths for paths.
8 P21/S0644/FUL – Pearces Yard, Aylesbury Road – Amendment Nos. 2, 3 & 4
It was noted that having reviewed the amended plans and additional information, it was considered that they would not alter the Town Council’s recommendations to Object the application made on 30 March 2021 and 10 August 2021.
9 Service Level Agreement Parking
It was noted that Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) had served notice to terminate the Service Level Section 101 Agency Agreement to the Town Council for managing the Upper High Street and High Street Car Parks, confirming their proposed commencement on 1st November 2021.
Members noted that there had not yet been a public consultation as promised and it was felt that the proposed parking changes were preordained. Members were disappointed that OCC were imposing the changes and that the Town Council had not had an opportunity to debate them, however it was recognised that OCC were the Highways Authority.
The Acting Town Clerk reminded Members that OCC had asked the Town Council to submit ideas for roads needing residents parking. It was noted that £3,000 was required to change a traffic order and concern was raised that the Town Council may have to fund this. The Acting Town Clerk would also be requesting operational information relating to the market.
It was proposed and seconded that the Town Council write to the Leader of OCC to raise concerns regarding the termination of the service level agreement prior to consultation, that the public consultation had not yet taken place, and to express discontent with the way Thame has been treated.
The meeting concluded at 7.10pm.
Chairman, 16 November 2021