03 August 2021 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of a Meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee held on 03 August 2021 at 6.30pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall.
B Austin, D Bretherton (Deputy Chairman), N Champken-Woods (Deputy Mayor), P Cowell (Town Mayor), A Dite, D Dodds, M Dyer (Chairman), H Fickling, C Jones and A Midwinter
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 for absence received from Cllr Gregory (personal) and Tipping (business).
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
There were no declarations of interest or dispensations.
3 Public Participation and Public Questions
Mr Hutchinson spoke as the applicant for the land disposal request at 28 Youens Drive. The request was to incorporate 1.5metres of land to the south-east of the property with a fence, running the length of the property and garden. The land in question is currently a dense hedgerow, approximately 4metres deep, which has made it impossible to maintain the side of the property, which was now overgrown with ivy. The proposal would retain approximately 2metres of the hedgerow as to not affect the aesthetic of the area. A gate would be installed to enable side access.
It was clarified that the Town Council currently maintained and owned the land and therefore the Land Acquisition policy and procedure applied.
It was moved and seconded that Item 8 be taken next.
The Minutes of the meetings held on 20 April 2021 and 18 May 2021 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
5 Financial Update
Members received the budget summary and balance sheet up to 30 June 2021.
On the balance sheet, a question was raised with regards to the depreciation of the Town Council’s land and buildings, given that generally property has risen in value. The Acting Responsible Financial Officer (RFO) advised that she would ask the accountant to explain the calculations. A valuation, for insurance purposes, takes place every 5 years and was due this year. This had been added into the Fixed Asset Depreciation policy.
It was noted that following the closure of the Barclay’s branch in Thame, all cash deposits were now made with the account at Lloyds.
6 Investment Update
The Investment Summary was noted.
Cllr Dyer provided an update on the Investment Strategy Working Group which was formed at the previous committee meeting and had met for the first time on 15th July. The group were moving forwards with undertaking a fundamental review of the Investment Strategy, which was currently thin on substance and contradictory in places. Cllr Dyer advised that the group would review the criteria for holdings but would not be looking at individual holdings at this stage. The Council was constrained by statutory guidance which states that the Council must prioritise security, liquidity, and yield, in that order. In addition to these, the group would be considering unregulated markets and compliance with ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) factors. Overall, the review, which would not be rushed, was to ensure the strategy was fit for purpose.
7 Council Policies
There were 9 council policies which had been reviewed by Officers as outlined in the covering report. Officers provided a verbal summary of the changes to their respective policies. There were no changes proposed to the Financial Management Procedure, Partnership Working Policy, Sponsorship Policy or Promotional Signs Policy. With regards to the latter, it was clarified that the Town Council actively removes any posters which do not conform with the policy, which included posters for missing pets.
The Acting RFO advised that the Fixed Asset Depreciation policy had been updated to reflect that independent valuations are undertaken every 5 years for insurance purposes, as previously mentioned under Item 5.
The Asset Manager advised that the Land Acquisition & Disposal Policy had been updated to reflect current working practice and following discussions at the Planning & Environment Committee regarding biodiversity.
The Acting Town Clerk advised that the Social Media & Media Relations Policy had been updated to reflect current working practice. The Structures on the Highway Policy had been updated to be in line with the work of the Oxfordshire Transport & Access Group. The Holding an Event on Town Council Land Policy had been updated following discussions at the Open Spaces Working Group which had agreed that commercial requests would not be considered.
There being no further discussion, it was moved and seconded that the reviewed / updated policies be taken in a single vote.
- The reviewed and updated Financial Management Procedure and Fixed Asset Depreciation, Land Acquisition & Disposal, Partnership Working – A Code of Practice, Promotional Signs, Social Media & Media Relations, Sponsorship, Structures on the Highway, and Holding an Event on Town Council Land policies be approved.
8 Disposal of Amenity Land at 28 Youens Drive
The Asset Manager reminded Members than in 2014 the Town Council agreed in principle to dispose of the corner of land to the rear of 28 Youens Drive (outlined in blue on Appendix 2). The new land disposal request was to enable access to the side and rear of the property. The first stage of the process was for the Town Council to decide whether to support the proposal in principle. If supported, the landowner would need to seek planning permission and the Town Council would then seek a formal valuation and advertise the disposal of the land. Members will then be presented with the value of the land and any comments from the public in order to formally agree for the sale to proceed.
The Asset Manager clarified that the Town Council had replaced the 2 trees felled in an area of public open space close to the property and planted 4 new trees.
Concern was raised about the amount of land that would be lost and that it could provide an area for children to play, however it was noted that the hedgerow would be partially retained whilst enabling the applicant to safely maintain and access the side of their property.
The Land Registry map (Appendix 3) showed a yellow dashed area (denoting water mains) and red shaded area that would partially be included within the proposed land disposal. During discussion and reference to the Land Registry document it was established that the red shaded area was covered by a covenant. It was noted that in 2014 the Town Council had supported in principle the disposal of the corner of land which partially fell within this area.
Overall Members felt the proposal complied with the policy; however further clarification was required with regards to any covenants on the land.
- The Town Council support, in principle, the land disposal request at 28 Youens Drive subject to Officers seeking clarification on any land covenants / restrictions.
9 Thame Museum
The Asset Manager reported that she was informed yesterday by the contractor that they had been able to source the lead work that is required around the glass lantern with work starting as soon as possible.
10 Reports from Representatives on External Organisations
The reports were noted.
21st Century Thame:-
Cllr Fickling advised that they had been planting a lot of trees and Lucy Electric had been supporting this initiative. 21st Century Thame were beginning work on next year’s Thame Carnival.
The Chairman added that the current arrangements for these reports seemed to be working well, with Members providing detailed reports in advance of the meetings and thanked the Committee Services Officer for coordinating this.
11 Thame Barns Centre
Members received Thame Barns Centre’s Annual Report and Accounts as presented to and approved at the Barns Centre AGM on 22 July 2021. Cllr Dodds advised that the trustees had worked hard to secure income during the pandemic and was optimistic that things were improving. The Barns Centre was financially sound, and its reserves were being saved in the event that the building needed re-roofing, as well as being used to support community groups who use the venue.
12 Health & Safety Visit
It was noted that the Health & Safety update visit by Ellis Whittam had taken place earlier in the day. The Acting RFO advised it had been a positive visit to the Town Hall and Depot with very few findings and that all actions on the previous audit had been cleared. The report was due in the next few weeks.
The Chairman thanked and congratulated Officers for their hard work in achieving a positive audit.
13 Staffing Matters
The various staffing updates were noted.
With regards to the Town Clerk interviews, these were scheduled for Friday 13 August and would include a buffet that all Members would be invited to in due course. Concern was raised about the short turnaround between the application closing date and the interviews, particularly with regards to obtaining references and ensuring the decision was not rushed. The Chair and Deputy of the Personnel Committee advised that it was common practice to obtain references upon offering the job to a candidate, and that references tended to be standard documents that do not contain personal details due to legal reasons. If there wasn’t a right candidate, then the job would not be offered to anyone.
14 Free Use / De Minimis Delegated Authority
Members noted that the Acting Town Clerk through De Minimis delegated authority, has granted the following:
- Free Use of Upper Chamber for Thame Youth Projects – 24/5/21 and 10/6/21.
- Free Use of Upper Chamber for Thames Valley Police to hold monthly drop-ins – starting 14/6/21.
- Free Use of Upper Chamber for Thame Charity Fair – 20/11/21.
15 For Information
The items for information were noted.
In relation to Thame Concert Band, who had written a letter of thanks for the grant award, Cllr Champken-Woods reported that the event held in Elms Park at the weekend had gone amazingly well with around 65 attendees and over £100 raised. It was hoped that the event would be repeated next year.
The meeting concluded at 7:21pm.
Chairman, 2 November 2021