25 April 2023 – Minutes


Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 25 April 2023 at 6:30pm in the Upper Chamber, Town Hall, Thame.


Cllrs B Austin, P Cowell (Town Mayor), A Dite (Deputy Mayor), D Dodds, M Dyer, L Emery, H Fickling, A Gilbert, K Gregory, C Jones, A Midwinter, H Richards, and T Wyse


M Sturdy, Town Clerk
L Fuller, Committee Services & Processes Officer


As the final Full Council meeting of this administration, before the meeting started, the Mayor thanked the outgoing Councillors (Cllrs Austin, Deacock, Gregory and Midwinter) for their input to the council and wished them well with their future endeavours. Special recognition was given to Cllr Midwinter who had served as a Town and District Councillor for in the region of over 40 years. This was a fantastic achievement and she had done a lot for Thame in this time. Cllr Midwinter was presented with a bouquet of flowers from the council and added that Thame was lucky to have a team of hard-working councillors and well-trained staff who are delivering exciting projects for the town including the new community youth centre and affordable housing.

Cllr Gregory entered the meeting.


1 Apologies for Absence

Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Champken-Woods (personal) and Deacock (personal). Cllr Bretherton was absent without apology.


2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

There were no declarations of interest.


3 Public Participation and Public Questions

Mrs. Mary Stiles asked, “Is there anything Thame Town Council (TTC) can do to help the Red Kite Family Centre (RKFC) financially, in addition to the annual grant, in order to prevent its possible closure in July?”. Mrs Stiles was shocked of the possible closure news. The centre is open to all, and its professional staff provide an essential service for Thame’s community. Whilst the imminent closure has since been averted, the continuity of the RKFC must be ensured.

The Chair replied to advise that RKFC had provided TTC with an update. The first round of fundraising had been successful in securing the RKFC until March 2024. The second round will focus on long-term financial sustainability. The Town Council has continued to financially support RKFC over the years despite its own budgetary constraints, and will be setting next year’s budget in October. The Town Council is in discussions with the RKFC, although it was noted they had not made contact when they were financially insecure. The full report from RKFC would be provided to the Council in June.


4 Lord Williams’s School Update

Mr. Jon Ryder, Headteacher at Lord Williams’s School (LWS), gave a presentation to the council.

LWS has 2,220 students and is one of the town’s largest employers with 300 teachers and support staff, plus an additional 20 catering staff employed by an external company. Just over 80% of the school’s £12million budget is spent on staffing. The presentation covered 4 topics as follows:

  1. Expansion project – To manage a growing catchment area and population, and as requested by Oxfordshire County Council (OCC), from 2022 the admission for Year 7 increased from 320 to 350, and an additional 20 students in Years 12 & 13 (sixth form). To facilitate this at Lower School two new classrooms and a science laboratory have been developed. A new catering outlet and improved toilet facilities have been completed using S106 monies. Donations have enabled new spaces for the counselling team and school nurse. The learning support team had been relocated to a former OCC building however it has structural issues, with repairs being undertaken. At Upper School, S106-funded projects are ongoing to deliver additional teaching capacity, notably the new English building, the Kenningham Building. Other facilities will follow and help to rationalise departments and site layout. The school will reach its planned capacity from 2026. The expansion faced huge challenges but is very exciting and nearing completion.
  2. Environmental impact – The school’s Eco Club is aiming for the Eco School Award. Projects include reducing vehicles idling around the site; reducing car journeys between sites through coordinating timetables and car sharing; recycling textiles with the deposit bins on each site providing a monthly income for the Parents’ Association; reducing plastic waste by using compostable and recyclable cutlery and plates; reducing the carbon footprint with solar panels and air-source heat pumps on new buildings. A consultant has been commissioned to determine an effective way to reduce the school’s carbon footprint which will inform future work.
  3. Recruitment challenge – Like most organisations, LWS is struggling to recruit support staff and teachers. People have incredible pressure on their finances and the salaries offered are not attractive. However, the school is tied by the national agreement on pay rates, and any unfunded pay rise would impact the school’s budget.
  4. Ukraine community – Thanks to Thame’s generosity, the school has 60 students and 3 members of staff from Ukraine who have joined since April 2022. The students received a bespoke programme to ensure a gradual introduction, and they are now achieving remarkable results. The additional funding from OCC will expire soon however some families have left the area.

Following recent positive engagement with students from the school, how could the Town Council continue to engage with students? The school can circulate surveys and create student groups to engage with discussions and specific projects. Politics students would be interested in attending council meetings, and likewise the school would welcome visits from the council.

Can the school police idling around the school? Mr. Ryder advised that in addition to regular communication through the parent’s newsletter, the school is planning a campaign to further deter idling however in terms of policing, this was an intimidating task for staff, students, or the public.

Is the single site proposal not proceeding? Yes, due to a promised bridging loan from OCC, which was critical to the proposal’s viability, not being available. This was disappointing as a lot of preparatory work had been done.

Are any further expansions planned? No, with the completed and planned works the school will be able to provide the needs for Thame’s community, and surrounding villages, and no further expansion is planned.

Is the academy status helping or hindering finances? LWS became an academy in 2012 when OCC stated they were commissioners, and not providers, of education, and since then additional funding has gradually decreased however overall, the funding situation would not be significantly different if the school didn’t change to an academy. It has been harder to provide home schooling and youth services. At this stage, Thame’s primary schools are not interested in joining the multi-academy trust as OCC are able to provide what they need.

The school’s Eco Club is excellent, could this be extended to the primary schools? Two of Thame’s primary schools have strong environmental groups already. LWS has a curriculum continuity group to support the transition from Year 6 to Year 7, and there was no reason why this couldn’t cover environmental matters too.

Members thanked Mr. Ryder for an interesting presentation.


5 Civic Announcements

The Mayor’s attendance report was noted.


6 Reports from County Councillors

The report was noted and there were no questions.


7 Reports from South Oxfordshire District Councillors

The report was noted and there were no questions.

Cllr Gregory thanked the Town Council for an amazing experience, as her final meeting as a Town Councillor.


8 Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)

No questions were raised.


9 Minutes

The Minutes of the Committee Meeting held on 4 April 2023 were confirmed as a correct record, and were signed by the Chairman.


10 Policy & Resources Committee

The minutes of the meeting held on 18 April 2023 were unavailable, and therefore would be noted at the next meeting.


11 Community, Leisure & Recreation Committee

The minutes of the meeting held on 4 April 2023 were noted.


12 Upper Chamber Chairs

The Town Clerk advised this item would be deferred to a future meeting, whilst Officers finalise the report details.


13 Strategy Action Plan

The report and one-year action plan for 2023-24 were noted.

The Town Clerk explained the work was ongoing for the Town Council’s strategy, following approval of the working group’s terms of references. The action plan is a working document and represents all projects approved by the council, and aspirational projects, in order to manage resource availability and ensure alignment with the Thame Neighbourhood Plan, Green Living Plan and – once agreed – the strategy. Officers will keep it updated and share with Members, and an amended version will be publicly available in due course. The action plan provides indicative costs and start/finish dates, and can be filtered to sort by specific projects, committees, or officers.

Members were very supportive of the action plan showing all projects cohesively and clearly, and being able to filter accordingly.

A number of questions were raised in relation to managing the interrelation of projects, software and capacity to respond to emergencies. The document is a starting point, and suitable alternative software would be explored in due course. The Town Council’s disaster recovery documents should link to this document, and additional resources may be required, or projects paused, to respond to emergencies.

Officers had begun work on reviewing committees, working groups, and terms of references which, when complete, will tie into the action plan and strategy. It is important that all projects align with the council’s strategy, follow a set process, and can be resourced.


The meeting concluded at 7:28pm.


Signed ………………………

Chairman, 16 May 2023