19 January 2021 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 19 January 2021 at 6:30pm by Zoom Conference Call.
Cllrs B Austin, D Bretherton, N Champken-Woods, P Cowell (Deputy Mayor), A Dite, D Dodds, M Dyer, H Fickling, S Francis, K Gregory, C Jones, A Midwinter (Town Mayor), J Tipping and T Wyse
C Pinnells, Acting Town Clerk
K Slater, Acting Responsible Financial Officer
A Oughton, Asset Manager
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Cllrs Deacock (personal) and Emery (unwell). Cllr Tipping was present for most of the meeting however experienced internet connection issues and did not have video enabled. Otherwise, all Members who were present were able to be seen and be heard.
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
The Acting Town Clerk had granted a dispensation to Cllrs Dite and Wyse to enable both to speak and vote on Thame Shed (Item 17). Cllr Wyse had a general dispensation in place as a Council Representative for Thame Shed, but following him becoming a trustee on the Thame Shed committee, a dispensation had been put in place for transparency.
3 Civic Announcements
The Mayor gave thanks to various people in response to the Christmas efforts in Thame last year. Firstly, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the usual Senior Citizen’s Tea Party could not be held however thanks to the Administration Officer, Cllr Emery, and the Inner Wheel Club of Thame, 60 hampers were delivered which had been appreciated by those who received them. Secondly, the Advent Calendar had been so well-received, and thanks were given to the Market Town Co-Ordinator and other Officers for their work on this. It had been a strange Christmas, but people had come forward to ensure Christmas was celebrated in Thame and the Mayor hoped things would be back to normal by this Christmas.
The Mayor also thanked the Rycote and Unity Health practices for their work on the Covid-19 vaccine delivery in Thame. Businesses and community groups had offered themselves as vaccination hubs if required, which had been passed onto the GP practices.
4 Public Participation and Public Questions
There were no applications to address the Council.
There were no public questions put to the Council.
5 Report from County Councillor N Carter
Cllr Tipping entered the meeting during this item.
The Chairman thanked Cllr Carter for his comprehensive report, which was noted.
Cllr Carter advised within his report there were various consultations, including one by the Oxfordshire Growth Board which was worth looking into with the approach now on ‘Good Growth’. The report also referenced the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and its criticism from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. Cllr Carter also reported on the rise in home-schooling which was becoming a concern for Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) as they had no powers to supervise or be involved with this. There was currently a case review on this matter with the hope that OCC would be involved with home-schooling at arm’s length. From a safeguarding perspective, Members were concerned that there was not a register of people who were home-schooling. Cllr Carter shared this concern and hoped that by lobbying the Department for Education the issue would be on the Government’s radar which would result in greater involvement from them.
Members were pleased to see that 90 suspected county lines offenders had been arrested as part of a recent operation. Cllr Carter reported that the police were taking the matter very seriously with ongoing conversations between OCC and Thames Valley Police.
Members asked for an update on the Haddenham to Thame Cycleway. Cllr Carter advised that a detailed review by Sustrans was underway and a report was due by the end of next month. Research had been done in the past but not to the same extent as it is now. Various route options were being investigated in terms of their feasibility – both cross country and following the line of the road – considering flooding and land ownership concerns. Compulsory purchase remained a viable option as an impasse had been reached with particular landowners however this would be a time and financially consuming option.
With reference to Cllr Carter’s meeting with Thames Valley’s Chief Constable, a question was raised as to whether the 58% increase in Stop & Search had prevented any crime and what the criteria for this was? Cllr Carter advised that the meeting was a while ago and that he would follow up on these points and report back.
6 Reports from South Oxfordshire District Councillors
The report was noted. Cllr Gregory highlighted from the report that the South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2035 had been adopted last month, with improvements including the new DES10 policy on zero-carbon housing. It was also reported that the District Councillor grants were now open with £5,000 available from each District Councillor and suggested that this could be publicised in the Town Council’s e-newsletter. Businesses were encouraged to sign up to the South and Vale Business Services newsletter which contained the latest information on financial support.
Regarding the District Councillor grants, a question was raised as to whether these would be suitable for the Green Living Plan projects, such as electric vehicle charging points. It was advised that the full criterion was available on the District Council’s website. The grants were for capital projects and there was a relatively short timescale to submit the application.
7 Budget and Precept for 2021-2022
The Acting Responsible Financial Officer (RFO) advised that Members had been kept informed by email on the proposed 2021-2022 budget and precept. A press release had been issued on 15 December inviting members of the public to comment on the proposed budget, but no comments were received. The precept leaflet would be produced next month following approval this evening. The proposed budget retained £5,000 for the Cuttle Brook Nature Reserve, £10,000 each for the Red Kite Family Centre and Thame Senior Friendship Centre, as well as continued funding to Citizens Advice, Thame Town Music Festival, the Youth Worker, the screen for the Remembrance Event, renewal of the Thame Neighbourhood Plan and environmental projects. The proposed budget also includes provision for the new IT equipment to enable Officers to work effectively and efficiently remotely, and various additional expenditure in relation to Covid-19 as outlined in the report. The proposed budget takes into account the public sector workers pay freeze. The tax base increase this year was 96.2 which provided an additional £15,769.10 of precept.
The proposed budget increase from last year equated to £32,585 and gave a balanced budget, requiring a net precept of £807,268. The impact of Covid-19 meant the Town Council’s general reserves were low. The budget also applied the impact of services formerly funded by the District Council.
Overall, the full precept increase for 2021-22 would be 3.79% equating to an additional £3.14 per week for a Band D household.
The Chairman thanked the Acting RFO for her work on this. It was clarified that the £5,000 for the Cuttle Brook Nature Reserve was to build up earmarked reserves in the event of a major flood.
- The 2021-2022 budget be approved.
- £807,268 be raised for the precept for 2021-22.
8 Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)
Cllr Wyse asked the Mayor for an update on the Bledlow Tip project?
The Mayor advised that at the project’s AGM in November, they were advised that the planning application would be going in before Christmas, however the group then received a message from Buckinghamshire Council to advise that it had been deferred again. The group now intended to appeal this, given that the planning application was a straightforward application.
The minutes of the meetings held on 10 November 2020 and 13 November 2020 were approved.
10 Planning & Environment Committee
The minutes of the meetings held on 24 November 2020, 15 December 2020 and 12 January 2021 were noted.
11 Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee
The minutes of the meetings held on 24 November 2020 and 12 January 2021 were noted.
12 Personnel Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 13 October 2020 were noted.
13 External Audit
The Acting RFO advised that the External Auditor’s Report for 2019-2020 had been completed and received. The report highlighted no further considerations and no major matters to resolve. The Acting RFO advised that carrying out the External Audit remotely had taken a lot more time and effort than usual. The Chairman thanked the Acting RFO for her hard work.
- The External Auditor’s Report 2019-20 be received.
14 Petty Cash
It was noted that a random check was carried out on the Town Council’s petty cash on 23 November 2020 as part of the Internal Audit.
15 Burial Space
The Asset Manager firstly thanked Mr Dominic Veasey of Nexus Planning for attending the meeting and being available to answer Members questions. Burial provision had been discussed for many years, involving Taylor Wimpey, Nexus Planning and CEG. The report gave more detail on the various meetings to date. In November 2020, the Burial Space Working Group (BSWG) met to consider and agree the proposed plans for the Town Council to take over Burial Space management at Site C. The site would be multi-faith and there was an opportunity for green burials. It was a clean sheet for the Town Council to determine how the Maintenance Team would manage the site.
The next steps were now for the Town Council to consider in principle taking on ownership and management responsibilities for the new burial space on Site C. If agreed, Nexus Planning will be formally submitting a planning application and SODC will draw up a Deed of Variation to the S106 Agreement to allow the burial space to be handed to the Town Council.
Members thanked the Asset Manager for a very comprehensive report that answered a lot of questions. It was noted that the intention was for the burial space to be self-funding and that there would be lots more matters for the Town Council to consider following submission of the planning application, and the BSWG would be central to those discussions.
- In principle, subject to planning approval, the Town Council take on ownership and management responsibilities for the new burial space off Thame Park Road.
16 Thame Football Club
The Acting Town Clerk advised that a site visit had been held on 16 December with the Asset Manager and Cllr Dyer present. The project construction had been progressing well however due to poor weather, there was a delay of around 10 days. The next site visit was scheduled for 22 January 2021. The aggregate had started to be laid and approximately £20,000 had been saved by moving the pitch location over by around 200mm which enabled kick boards to be installed.
The build had been approved by OCC and work commenced on 24 November 2020. The Acting Town Clerk sought approval to sign the Building Contract, which had been checked by the Town Council’s solicitor who raised no concerns other than to note that any snagging issues must be identified within 12 months. The Acting Town Clerk had been in discussion with the District Council’s S106 Officer and had submitted the S106 application. There were a couple of outstanding issues relating to drainage and junior pitches, but it was hoped that these would be resolved at the site meeting on 22 January 2021 where the S106 Officer would be in attendance. The first application had been submitted to the Football Foundation and would take 14 days to come through, which would provide some relief to the Town Council’s financial accounts.
- The Acting Town Clerk is authorised to sign the Building Contract for the Artificial 3G Pitch.
17 Thame Shed
Cllr Tipping left the meeting during this item.
The Acting Town Clerk advised that the Thame Shed Business Plan, as requested by Council on 10 November 2020, had been provided and circulated to Members.
A question was asked as to how the project intended to source the remaining funding requirements? Cllr Dite advised that a variety of funding applications had been submitted to different organisations. Following receipt of the Town Council’s funding, the project will be able to provide evidence of seed funding which will assist with other grant applications.
It was also questioned why the expected utilities costs seemed to be low? Cllr Dite advised that the group had approached the national organisation to gauge the cost based on similar groups and on operating 3 days a week. It was expected that running costs would be low as equipment use would be minimal and the ‘shed’ would be built within the barn which would offer some insulation. It was suggested that the barn could install solar panels, perhaps through the Solar Streets initiative if suitable, as electricity use would be during daylight hours only and therefore over time this would reduce running costs. Cllr Dite thought that this was a great idea and would investigate it.
The Acting Town Clerk advised that following approval of the business plan, the grant funding would be released and as this was over £2,000 a written report must be provided within 12 months.
- The Thame Shed Business Plan be received and approved.
18 Blue Plaques
The report and supporting papers were noted. Cllr Dyer explained that this had been included on the agenda due to grant funding deadlines associated with the project. Cllr Dyer advised that he had been researching Frank H Kirby VC who was born at Wavertree House, 18 High Street. He was awarded for his heroic actions with a Victoria Cross (VC) during the Boer War. The research had been verified and approved by the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board. The project could proceed without the Town Council’s support, however support was sought in principle to ensure Members were happy with the proposals, to get the Town Council’s name on the plaque as a ‘sponsor’ and to approve administration of the project’s finances through a restricted fund within the Town Council’s accounts. The project is time-limited and with a small budget and therefore does not warrant setting up a new bank account. The project presents no financial implications for the Town Council, Officer involvement or discernible risks.
It was noted that although Frank H Kirby had achieved his VC during the Boer War, the plaque intended to celebrate the individual’s achievements rather than the Boer War which was a sensitive subject.
Cllr Dyer added that the museum had confirmed they would be able to host an unveiling event for the blue plaque and accompanying one-day exhibition which would include artefacts donated by Frank H Kirby’s family.
- The Town Council approves support for the project.
- The Town Council approves permission for the Listed Building Consent application and any grant funding applications are made in the name of the Town Council.
19 The Elms
It was noted that the Town Council submitted a formal complaint regarding the South Oxfordshire District Council planning meeting held on 16 December 2020. Further investigation may require legal counsel – this will be sought under delegated powers and Members will be fully informed.
20 1286 – P20/S2593/O – Additional Information – Land east of Tythrop Way (B4012) and south of Kingsey Road (A4129), Thame
It was noted that having reviewed the additional information received on 11 December 2020, it is the Officer’s view that it would not change the Town Council’s recommendation made on 22 September 2020 to Object.
The meeting concluded at 7:27pm.
Signed ……………………… Date ………………………