3 March 2020 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of the Meeting of Thame Town Council held on 3 March 2020 at 6.30pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall
Cllrs B Austin, N Champken-Woods, P Cowell (Deputy Mayor), A Dite, D Dodds, M Dyer, H Fickling, K Gregory, C Jones and T Wyse
J Cole, Town Clerk
K Slater, Office Administration Manager
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Deacock (Personal), Emery (Personal), Midwinter (Council Business) and Tipping (Unwell).
In the absence of the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor chaired the meeting.
Cllrs Bretherton and Francis were absent without apology.
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
There were no declarations of interest.
3 Civic Announcements
The Mayor’s civic attendances were noted.
4 Public Participation and Public Questions
Ms Donna Mulligan addressed the Council as a resident of Kings Close and spoke on behalf of the other residents. On Kings Close there is a mix of parking arrangements (on / off street or no parking). Ms Mulligan had lived there for 40 years however she had not seen parking as bad as it currently. A lot of the vehicles parked on the street belong to town centre workers / visitors. Residents therefore park on the grass verge and pavements illegally as there is nowhere else to park. Bin collections have been missed as the trucks could not access the road due to inconsiderate parking. Ms Mulligan had reported the matter to the police, town council, district council and county council but was not getting anywhere.
The Town Clerk advised that the matter was being looked into and that it had been raised with the Police who were going to send someone to have a look. The Town Clerk was arranging an Officer-Officer meeting to discuss parking matters more generally in Thame.
5 Thames Valley Police
Inspector Nick Cain had joined in May and had been involved in operations for Thame Fair, Remembrance Sunday and the Christmas festivities this year. In response to the parking issues raised earlier, parking was a common problem across the local policing area and as part of this, Officers had been issuing tickets earlier in the day in Thame.
There had been some staffing changes within the local policing force, including the replacement of PC Stafford with PC Matt French who was in attendance. PC French worked alongside PC Ian Kent and had been with the force for five years in a different department, and was looking forward to working closer with the Town Council. The local police force were making plans for the retirement of the long-serving PC Kent too. Sergeant Vicky Ball (formerly Hoskin) would be returning to the force next month and would be able to provide the Town Council with more detailed statistics and local crime rate figures on her return.
Inspector Cain reported that the local policing and instant response teams have disrupted criminal drug dealers, but the police force were reliant on local intelligence and encouraged people to come forward if they had information. The police had been working proactively with licensing and reported that the Christmas period had gone well. Anti-social behaviour (ASB) at the recreation ground continued to be monitored and there had been some improvements, partially helped by the wet weather. Inspector Cain reiterated the importance of local people informing the police about incidents of ASB. The police had been working effectively to remove illegal begging in the town centre, and Insp Cain advised that those in genuine need would be offered and signposted to support.
A question was raised regarding the effectiveness of CCTV? Insp Cain PC French advised that it was a very useful system which the police work proactively with for preventing and detecting crime, and to establish trends.
Concerns were raised about call-handling time for the 101 non-emergency call number. Insp Cain advised that this service was being invested in.
A question was raised as to what interaction the local police team had with young people? Insp Cain advised that the police were committed to building long term relationships and positively engaging with young people and recognised that they can be victims and well as perpetrators of crime.
Regarding parking, a question was raised as to what powers the police had with regards to parking on zigzags in the town centre and also how the recent ticketing had been going? There were also calls for the traffic warden to be reappointed. Insp Cain advised that parking on zigzags would be considered a priority however current legislation requires a Police Constable to issue a ticket as it is an endorsable offence and beyond PCSO’s powers. Regarding ticketing on double yellow lines, the database had only started two weeks ago so it was too early to provide figures. The police have finite resources and the decriminalisation of parking by South Oxfordshire District Council was being investigated. The PCSO team had been short-staffed recently but an additional three PCSO’s would be in post by June and they will be the main focus in identifying key areas.
The Town Clerk thanked the local police team for their recent and effective work in ticketing vehicles parked on double yellow lines in the town centre, and also for their reassuring presence following incidents of ‘distraction crimes’.
Cllr Cowell thanked Insp Cain and PC French for their time.
6 Report from County Councillor N Carter
The report was noted. Cllr Carter reported that the budget-setting meeting last month had been a meeting of two halves; with the budget being approved unanimously followed by a contentious discussion regarding the future of the SODC Local Plan. It since appears that the Local Plan is progressing with it being returned to examination.
Members felt the report seemed more political than usual and felt this wasn’t appropriate for reporting on Thame issues. Cllr Carter advised that he was reporting on matters at SODC and OCC which are both inherently political bodies.
Cllr Jones reported that highways matters are always the focus of the monthly Councillor Drop-Ins held in Thame, and questioned whether allocation of 10% of the budget to highways matters was sufficient. Cllr Carter advised that, no, it would only be a drop in the ocean and potholes, for example, would be maintained but not properly fixed. Members felt the current highways maintenance approach by OCC was inefficient and required a change in leadership / planning. Cllr Carter reported that a radical ‘transformation’ at OCC was coming which would involve new leadership and officers, and adopting a ‘spend to save’ approach.
Cllr Wyse asked for an update on the request for a zebra crossing on Wellington Street by Lee Court. Cllr Carter advised that some site surveys had been undertaken and County Cllr Matelot was following this up, but implementation was a while away.
7 Reports from South Oxfordshire District Councillors
Cllr Pieter-Paul Barker introduced himself to those who he had not met since being elected to SODC last year, adding that he hoped to attend Town Council meetings when he could.
Cllr Barker advised that earlier in the day, the Secretary of State had lifted the holding order placed on SODC’s Local Plan which had prevented discussion and action on the plan. SODC Members can now propose changes to the plan as it is returned to an extended examination period which runs until the end of 2020. A special cabinet and full council meeting will be held on Thursday 5 March to discuss the options.
Cllr Barker reported that as SODC’s finances were in a serious state, a thorough line-by-line review had been undertaken to identify savings and increase revenues without impacting frontline services. The first step is that the 2020-21 budget will not call on SODC’s reserves. Significant changes to the way SODC is run would be coming and Cllr Barker advised that updates would be provided when available.
It is hoped that the proposed new Council offices at Crowmarsh would present a cost-saving opportunity. For the last few years, SODC have been paying nearly £1m a year to rent their office space in Didcot, which insurance had previously covered following the arson attack. The new building would be built on the same site as the previous Council offices which SODC own. In addition to the cost-savings from insurance, the building would be energy efficient which would keep running costs down.
Regarding the new offices, several questions were raised:
1. Would the rebuild be covered by insurance?
2. What benefit would the new offices provide to the local community?
3. Currently SODC share resources in Milton to save money, however will this be lost with the relocation?
Cllr Barker advised that insurance would not cover all the costs. The local community would be involved and it is hoped the offices will provide community facilities and improved public transport. The offices will be shared with the Vale of White Horse District Council as per the arrangements prior to the arson.
8 Members Questions (under Standing Order 11)
No questions were raised.
The minutes of the meeting held on 21 January 2020 were approved and signed by the Chairman.
10 Policy & Resources Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 18 February 2020 were noted.
11 Community, Leisure & Recreation Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 11 February 2020 were noted.
12 Planning & Environment Committee
The minutes of the meetings held on 4 February 2020 and 25 February 2020 were noted.
13 Neighbourhood Plan Continuity Committee
The minutes of the meeting held on 4 February 2020 were noted.
14 Internal Audit Programme
The Office Administration Manager reported that the Internal Auditor for 2020-2025 would be appointed at the next Policy and Resources meeting, and the proposed Programme of Work was attached. It was proposed that the Programme of Work be reduced by 7 hours based on current findings and monitoring over the last year, offering a saving of £440 annually. It was also noted that the Internal Auditor had highlighted that Thame Town Council was a textbook Council which they showed to other Council’s to demonstrate good practice.
i) The Annual Internal Audit Programme of Work for 2020-2025 be approved.
15 Effectiveness of Internal Control / Financial Risk
The Office Administration Manager presented the report and measures taken to mitigate financial risks. All risks management measures had been reviewed with only one amendment to include the recently adopted Procurement Policy. The Town Clerk thanked the Office Administration Manager for her hard work and added that Thame Town Council had one of the most robust financial controls and securities she had come across.
i) The measures taken to mitigate financial risks be approved.
ii) The effectiveness of internal control be approved.
16 S106 Allocation Procedure
The report was noted. The Town Clerk explained that in recent weeks Thame Town Council had received requests to draw down s106 funding for local organisations at short notice. These requests require Officer time and resources, however the Town Council did not have a procedure / guidelines in place for managing these requests. The Town Clerk presented a procedure for Members to consider, adding that it would benefit both parties to have a procedure in place. Members felt the procedure was sensible and important.
i) The procedure for managing external requests for S106 monies be adopted.
17 Schedule of Meetings
It was noted that an additional Full Council meeting on 12 May 2020 was scheduled for the Green Living Plan presentation.
18 Monthly Councillor Drop-In
Cllr Gregory reported that the first re-launched monthly Councillor Drop-In had taken place on 1 February 2020 with herself and Cllr Jones. There had been 5 members of public with all issues raised relating to the District or County Council. Marketing would be increased over time to encourage increased attendance. The next Councillor Drop-In would take place this Saturday, 7 March, with Cllrs Bretherton and Champken-Woods.
19 Bledlow Household Recycling Centre
In the absence of Cllr Midwinter, the Town Clerk provided an update. An operator had been identified and the group were working towards funding options, with funds already available for planning consent. The Town Clerk had assisted in the drawing up of the Heads of Terms for the lease between the group, operator and Buckinghamshire County Council.
20 Long Service Awards
It was noted that on 23 January 2020, Lindsey Messenger, Mark Croake, Mark Pinnells, Rosie Collins, David Gander, Jane Webster and Cassie Pinnells were each presented with a Long Service Award for over ten years’ service to Thame Town Council.
21 Midsomer Plaques
It was noted that Helen Johns, acting as the Town Council’s agent, had been notified by the Planning Inspectorate that the appeal (APP/Q3115/Y/19/3239826) in relation to the refused planning application P18/S2735/LB has been dismissed.
The Town Clerk added that a press release had gone out and that Helen Johns would be exploring options to use stickers rather than plaques.
The meeting concluded at 7:42pm
Chairman, 28 April 2020