15 February 2022 – Minutes


Minutes of a Meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee held on 15 February 2022 at 6.30pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall.


Cllrs B Austin, D Bretherton (Deputy Chairman), N Champken-Woods (Deputy Mayor), P Cowell (Town Mayor), A Dite, D Dodds, M Dyer (Chairman), H Fickling, K Gregory, C Jones, and J Tipping


M Sturdy, Town Clerk
K Slater, Responsible Financial Officer & Office Administration Manager
A Oughton, Asset Manager
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer


1 Apologies for Absence

Apologies for absence received from Cllr Midwinter (personal).

2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

There were no declarations of interest or dispensations.

3 Public Participation and Public Questions

It was moved and seconded that this item be delayed and taken immediately after Item 10.

Mr. Steve Conrad spoke as the resident of 22 Pickenfield in relation to agenda Item 11. To the east of 22 Pickenfield is a triangular piece of land that cascades as it runs towards the footpath that connects to Howland Road. The land is currently mainly grass with some shrubs and trees, and vehicles often park on the verge. Mr. Conrad was hoping to purchase a piece of this land, with two options presented, in order to increase the size of his garden for his children and widen the driveway to improve parking arrangements. There was no intention to build on the land. With regards to the land valuation, Mr. Conrad hoped this would be below the amount required for a public tender. A valuation had been requested from a local surveyor however they were not accepting valuation work. Mr. Conrad was seeking the Council’s opinion on whether they would be willing to sell the land before he incurred legal and planning costs.

Members asked for the dimensions of the land Mr. Conrad was looking to buy? Mr. Conrad advised that the land measured 30ft from the footpath to the rear boundary of 22 Pickenfield and he was not looking to purchase all the land shown in Option 1. Option 2 showed a 5metre square area, which would be used as an extension to the garden, and then a narrower strip of around 2-3metres to allow for the driveway extension. Mr. Conrad felt this was not a large proportion of land but ensured the land acquired would be useable. The exact measurements would depend on the land valuation; however, it was noted that a valuation would not be possible without exact dimensions.

Members asked what the land is currently used for? Mr. Conrad advised that other than parking for cars, it was used by dog walkers. If the land disposal was supported, the area would be fenced off with shrubs in keeping with existing, so this would not affect the current users of the area.

4 Citizens Advice

Tricia Hook, Advice Services Manager in Thame, and Monica Downton, Deputy Director of Advice, from Citizens Advice presented the committee with their annual update. It was noted that following the retirement of Mr Jon Bright, the new director would be starting in April.

In 2020/21, the Citizens Advice service in Thame helped over 1,300 people with over 2,700 issues. The service is an important part of the community that works with various local organisations such as Christians Against Poverty and Thame Foodbank to help their clients. The service offers advice on a range of subjects and often a client will present with multiple issues that they need help with.

The service is mainly delivered by telephone, as well as through face-to-face appointments and by email. The pandemic has had a major impact on the delivery of the services; however, the volunteers had been amazing in swiftly adapting to working from home and over the phone which had worked well for the clients too. Citizens Advice Thame has 25 volunteers which, in the last year, equates to almost £900,000 of volunteer hours. The volunteers are so dedicated and integral to the service. Every volunteer undergoes thorough training including working with experienced advisors over several weeks to help build their knowledge further.

In Thame, the top issue is general benefits, which covers a wide range of issues, however in light of the rising energy bills the service was seeing a surge of enquiries relating to that. The service continues to be effective with 8 in 10 people having their problem resolved following advice and 9 in 10 people saying the service helped them to find a way forward. The advice service has a wider impact on society for example by helping to keep people in employment, preventing housing evictions and improving family relationships. Over 9 in 10 people said their problem was negatively affecting their lives. The service helps those who lack confidence in using the internet (1 in 5) and taking action to solve their issue (3 in 5) by signposting them to relevant information and giving them confidence to take the next step. The research and campaigns that Citizens Advice are involved in is just as important as the advice they give. Citizens Advice have direct influence on Government policy, given their unique insight into people’s lives and challenges, and as a result of their campaigning the Government paused evictions and bailiff activity during the pandemic.

A question was raised with regards to the future funding and the impact that may have on the service? Ms. Hook advised this was an important issue as it was confirmed that Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South & Vale would be receiving less funding from South Oxfordshire District Council next year. Citizens Advice continues to look at ways to deliver its services with fewer resources and reduced running costs. The opening hours of the Thame office has been reduced during the pandemic to four mornings a week, however as reported earlier most clients are happy to access the service via telephone. One option being considered was to reduce the opening hours by one day but extend the opening hours on the remaining three days, to help reduce costs associated with running the premises. The phone service would remain open during standard office hours and therefore it was considered that this change would not negatively impact on the service. Ms. Hook advised that a fundraiser was in place who is actively seeking funding, however the reduction in funding was going to be a bigger problem going forwards.

Members recognised the concerns and agreed to take these on board and reflect in due course to see if there was any way that the Town Council could assist. It was recognised that the Citizens Advice service would be faced with fewer resources but an increased demand for the service due to the cost of living crisis, which the Town Council would need to take into account when setting the precept.

The Chairman thanked Ms. Hook and Ms. Downton for their presentation and advised that the Citizens Advice service in Thame was greatly valued.

5 Minutes

The Minutes of the Committee Meeting held on 2 November 2021 were confirmed as a correct record, and were signed by the Chairman.

6 Financial Update

Members received the budget summary and balance sheet up to 31 December 2021.

The Responsible Financial Officer (RFO) & Office Administration Manager highlighted the two large percentages on expenditure relating to Thame Football Partnership and Car Parks on the budget summary. The Thame Football Partnership budget line will be rectified when the final payment has been made hopefully before the end of the financial year. Similarly with the Car Parks budget line, this will be balanced out with income at the year-end as no further expenditure was expected.

7 Financial Overspends

The financial overspends were noted. The RFO & Office Administration Manager advised that most of the expected overspends were minimal, and it was noted that the Neighbourhood Plan fees would be covered by earmarked reserves.

A question was raised as to whether further overspends were expected with the Neighbourhood Plan? The RFO & Office Administration Manager advised that it was difficult for her to comment on this, however there was provision for further overspends from previous years.

8 Investment Update

The Investment Summary was noted. The Chairman noted that the investment portfolio was robust and the capital return over the last 6 months had been very impressive.

9 Display Screen Equipment Policy

The RFO & Office Administration Manager had reviewed the policy and added a line, as shown in red, to reflect that Officers now work from home or remotely as well as in the office. The Display Screen Equipment assessments have also been updated to reflect this, in order to comply with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulations.

A question was raised with regards to how the council ensures Officers have suitable set-ups to work from home? The RFO & Office Administration Manager advised that the workstation assessments and accompanying HSE guidelines sent to all Officers highlighted any issues relating to workstations at home or in the office. There was a Health & Safety budget to cover any new equipment that was required which enabled any issues highlighted to be promptly resolved, for example recently a new office chair and footrest had been purchased to improve the workstation set-up for two Officers.

A comment was raised that 2.5hours of intermittent use of Display Screen Equipment did not seem a lot. The Town Clerk advised this was in line with guidance issued by HSE.


  1. The updated / reviewed Display Screen Equipment policy be approved.

10 Disposal of Amenity Land at 28 Pickenfield

The Asset Manager reminded Members that in February 2021, the committee supported in principle the disposal of this land at 28 Pickenfield, and the applicant now has planning permission for change of use from public amenity to domestic land. The applicant has sought a valuation from a local surveyor who has valued the land at £5,000, however this is more than they had anticipated for the small size of the land although it was noted that the applicant had declined to obtain a second valuation. Following this, the Asset Manager advised that she had used the price per square metre of the land sold in 2017 at 20 Pickenfield to calculate a comparison figure of £2,000 for the sale of land at 28 Pickenfield, using the Retail Price Index and taking into account administration costs. It was noted that the Council had no record of the methodology used for the price per square metre at 20 Pickenfield originally calculated in 2013. If the Town Council agrees to the sale of the land, consideration should be given to putting funds towards improving biodiversity on Pickenfield as per the Land Acquisition and Disposal Policy.

A question was raised as to whether a caveat would be placed on the land to prevent further development? The Asset Manager advised that the land would remain as a domestic garden.

It was pointed out that within Section 3 of the Land Acquisition and Disposal Policy, the Council is asked to seek a valuation for the land and that the best price should be obtained. It was therefore questioned why the lower figure was being considered, as the Council is required to get the best value for the land. It was noted that the land is only worth as much as the buyer is willing to pay and the seller is willing to sell it for.

The policy also asks the council to consider the public benefit of the land. Whilst the land is currently mainly shrubs which could be better maintained, it offers a healthy habitat for wildlife which holds value. Maintenance of the land is routinely carried out by the Council through a programmed schedule of works.

Members thanked the Asset Manager for her calculations however it was felt that the difference between the two valuations was too large to be able to assess a fair and accurate price for the land.  

It was suggested that Officers contact the District Valuer for an independent valuation and bring this back to the committee once it had been discussed with the applicant.


  1. Officers seek a valuation for the land from the District Valuer and discuss this with the prospective buyer. The valuations should then be brought back to this committee for consideration.

11 Disposal of Amenity Land at 22 Pickenfield

Concern was raised with regards to the permanent loss of this public amenity land, particularly on Pickenfield. Concern was also raised with regards to setting a precedent for others to buy areas of amenity land that adjoin their property. Previous land disposal requests in the area had been oddly shaped pieces of land, whereas this request was for a relatively substantial piece of land.

However, having considered the information presented by the applicant under Item 3, it was felt that the committee could not debate this further without exact measurements of the land. It was suggested that Members undertake a site visit to understand the size of the land and how it sits within the landscape.


  1. The applicant resubmits their drawings showing the exact measurements of the land that they wish to purchase, so that the committee can consider the land disposal request at a future meeting. Members of the committee should undertake a site visit prior to this.

12 Thame Museum

The Asset Manager reported that works were progressing well on the museum roof and it was hoped that they would be completed in the next few weeks, subject to weather conditions. Cllr Dite added that there may be some snagging issues and the roof was being monitored following recent heavy rain. It was hoped that the works would be completed, and the scaffolding removed, as soon as possible.

Cllr Fickling left the meeting.

13 Reports from Representatives on External Organisations

The reports were noted.

14 Thame Farmers Market 

It was noted that Thame Farmers Market has been rebranded to the Thame Local Produce Market, following consultation with traders.

15 Kebab Van Agreement

It was noted that the Kebab Van Agreement with the Town Council has been terminated due to the transfer of administration of the town centre car parks to Oxfordshire County Council.

16 Grants

It was noted that the Town Council’s Annual Grants Scheme will be open for applications from 31 March 2022 to 5 May 2022.

The report from Thame Angling Club following their grant award of £500 was noted, and the Chairman thanked the club for their report.

17 Health & Safety

It was noted that the Town Council Offices passed a random Covid-19 Spot Check by the Health and Safety Executive on 19 January 2022.

18 War Memorial Panel – Additional Names

Cllr Fickling re-entered the meeting.

The Asset Manager advised that the new names on the war memorial had been due to be added in 2021 to coincide with the centenary of the unveiling of the war memorial, however this had been delayed due to the pandemic. Officers had a contact for a foundry to do the plaques, but quotations and information on the lead times were required. The Council was asked to consider a date for the unveiling event, ideally during the summer months. Previous discussions had suggested coinciding with the Thame History Fair in June 2023, but this seemed too far away. Cllr Dyer advised that the intention was for this to be a town event and welcomed suggestion for who could be invited to unveil the new plaques.

Members suggested various dates however, as they were subject to the lead time for the plaques, it was suggested that Members put forward their ideas to Officers to consider.

19 Town Council Website Support & Hosting Contracts

It was noted that Officers are undertaking a cost comparison exercise to identify if the Council is receiving value for money in its website support and hosting contracts. The Council has been with the same provider since the site was rebuilt in 2016. If a cost-saving / service improvement is identified, this will be reported back to this committee at the next meeting, ahead of the current contract renewal date in July 2022. The Committee Services Officer added that both contracts were under £1,000

20 Free Use / De Minimis Delegated Authority

Members noted that the Town Clerk through De Minimis delegated authority, has granted the following:

  1. 10 March 2022 – ThameCOP – Upper Chamber – Event to celebrate and learn about ThameCOP26’s achievements, struggles and ideas.

The Chairman noted that this event was open to all and that he had had an interesting conversation with the organiser.


The meeting concluded at 7:48pm


Signed ………………………………

Chairman, 12 April 2022