20 April 2021 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of a Meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee held on 20 April 2021 at 6.30pm by Zoom Conference Call.
B Austin, D Bretherton, N Champken-Woods, P Cowell (Deputy Mayor), D Dodds, M Dyer (Chairman), L Emery, H Fickling, C Jones, A Midwinter (Town Mayor) and J Tipping
C Pinnells, Acting Town Clerk
K Slater, Acting Responsible Financial Officer
A Oughton, Asset Manager
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
There were no apologies for absence.
All Members who were present were able to be seen and be heard. Cllr Tipping experienced intermittent connection issues.
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
There were no declarations of interest or dispensations.
With regards to Item 15, Cllr Fickling declared an interest as a Church Warden for St Mary’s Church, however this was not a pecuniary interest and did not preclude Cllr Fickling from debating or voting on this item.
3 Public Participation and Public Questions
There were no applications to address the Committee.
There were no questions put to the Committee.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 16 February 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 28 February 2021. The Acting Responsible Financial Officer (RFO) explained that the budget summary now showed a comparison to the previous financial year as requested at the previous committee meeting. The overspend on Town Hall expenditure related to the IT upgrade, Information Centre till replacement and new iPads and the loss of income related to the impact of Covid-19 on various Town Council services.
Cllr Midwinter joined the meeting.
With regards to Item 5c, the Acting RFO explained that in order to assist with financial administration and to avoid missing deadlines due to unavailability, an additional two or three Members should be added as signatories on the United Trust bank account.
- Cllrs Champken-Woods, Fickling and Jones be added as signatories to the United Trust bank account.
6 Investment Update
The Investment Summary was noted. The Acting RFO explained that the portfolio was performing well despite a volatile market.
7 Investment Strategy
The Chairman advised that this item had been withdrawn from the agenda as it was felt that the strategy required a more thorough review. It was suggested that a small working group be formed to progress this and report back to the next committee meeting. The Acting Town Clerk raised concern about adding another working group. The Chairman felt that as this would be short-term and the strategy would require ratifying at committee, terms of reference were not required. Cllrs Cowell, Dodds, Dyer, Emery and Fickling volunteered to sit on the working group, which would meet initially via Zoom.
8 Internal Audit
Members received the Interim Internal Audit Report 2020-21.
The Acting RFO reported that the Interim Internal Audit had gone well. It had been held remotely and the next audit will be carried out in the Town Hall. The Chairman thanked the Acting RFO for her hard work.
9 Council Policies
With regards to the IT Policy, the Acting RFO explained that the policy had been updated following discussion at the previous committee meeting. The Council’s IT provider had confirmed that annual changing of passwords was acceptable and in line with Microsoft’s recommendation.
The Asset Manager explained that the Metal Detecting, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Pesticides policies had minor updates, highlighted in red. With regards to the £10million public liability insurance, it was explained that this was the minimum offered and standard practice. A typo was highlighted on section 2.8 of the Metal Detecting policy. With regards to the PPE Policy, Members raised concern that the policy did not cover stock control to ensure PPE products were in date. Although the policy focused on non-disposable PPE, it was agreed that a line would be added in as per 6.1 of the Pesticides policy. It was suggested that the Pesticide Policy be updated for consistency as it also covered herbicides which should be reflected in the policy title.
The Acting Town Clerk confirmed there were only minor changes to the Twinning Policy and Code of Corporate Governance.
- The Personal Protective Equipment policy be approved subject to the following being inserted: “Limited stock will be held on any PPE product to ensure that it is used by the expiry date”.
- The IT Policy, Metal Detecting Policy, Pesticides Policy, Town Twinning Policy and Code of Corporate Governance be approved.
10 Business Continuity
The Acting RFO explained that both the Business Continuity Strategy and Action Plan had been updated with minor changes which included removing reference to the physical server, and updating to reflect working from home arrangements, various phone numbers and the assembly point. A typo was highlighted on section 8.1 of the strategy.
A question was raised with regards to the provision for council meetings if the Town Hall was unavailable. It was advised that the depot and St Mary’s Church were available, although this was not explicitly stated in the strategy or action plan. In preparation for the likely end to virtual meetings next month, the Acting Town Clerk was investigating alternative venues that could accommodate all Members and Officers whilst adhering to social distancing requirements.
A question was raised as to why details had been redacted and where an unredacted version was available? Personal details in the documents had been redacted as they were publicly available as part of the agenda. Hard copies of the unredacted documents would be circulated to all Members and Officers after the meeting and were available in the Town Hall emergency grab bag.
- The updated Business Continuity Strategy and Business Continuity Action Plan be approved.
11 Holding an Event on Town Council Land Policy
The Holding an Event on Town Council Land Policy had been reviewed and was presented for approval. The Acting Town Clerk advised that the policy worked well for community events, however the Town Council was receiving numerous requests for use of its land for commercial activities, in particular sports and exercise classes which could not currently operate indoors due to Covid-19 restrictions. The Town Council had previously managed these requests, which were only occasional, by charging a fee for groups of 10 or more. The Town Clerk was seeking guidance as to whether the Council should set a fee for all commercial requests and formalize the procedure. The advice from other Town Clerks was to avoid this, as it is public open space and difficult to monitor.
Members were undecided on whether these commercial requests should be formalized. On the one hand, it was public open space, difficult to monitor, likely to be less of an issue with Covid-19 restrictions easing and incurred no cost to the Town Council currently and therefore should not be formalized. It was noted that there would be implications for the Maintenance Team who do not have set grass cutting times. On the other hand, the businesses were charging their customers to use Town Council land and making a profit, and this warranted a formal process. It was noted that the cricket, football, and rugby clubs were currently charging hirers the same rates to use their outdoor facilities as indoors.
Overall, it was felt this was a matter for the Open Spaces Working Group to discuss.
- The updated Holding an Event on Town Council Land Policy be approved.
- The Open Spaces Working Group be convened as soon as possible to discuss whether commercial requests to use public open space should be formalized.
12 Fees and Charges
Members were asked to consider the fees and charges for the Upper Chamber and Southern Road Recreational Ground (SRRG) for the 2021-22 financial year. The Acting Town Clerk advised that the Upper Chamber hire fee would be kept the same as previous years, however whilst Covid-19 restrictions are in place and limit the number of people that can be accommodated, this is reduced to £20/hour. It was noted that the meeting room was not currently available for hire as it was being used as an office for the Acting Town Clerk to enable social distancing in the offices.
With regards to SRRG, it was proposed that the hire fee be £18 per football match. Other Councils were charging more in comparison, but this had included use of their changing rooms.
- The charge for hiring the Upper Chamber remains at £27.00 and £14.00 per hour.
- The charge for hiring SRRG football pitch is £18.00 per game (inclusive of VAT).
13 John Hampden School / Elms Park Lease Agreement
The Acting RFO explained the Town Council had received a letter from John Hampden School questioning the £800/year charge for use of Elms Park, when the school had not used Elms Park last year due to Covid-19 and previously were only using it for their annual Sports Day. The agreement had been set up in 2014 with the previous Headteacher when the school used Elms Park on a more regular basis. The Town Council has a lease agreement until 2028 with Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) who charge the school for use of Elms Park to recoup funds. Members were asked to consider whether this agreement should be reviewed, noting that St Joseph’s School are charged a nominal fee of £15 for use of Town Council land for their Sports Day. It was also noted that if the charge to John Hampden School was reviewed to reflect use only on their Sports Day, the Town Council would need to ensure the grass was cut and the gate unlocked exclusively for this use.
Members agreed the agreement needed to be revised and the charge brought in line with St Joseph’s School.
- Officers liaise with Oxfordshire County Council to revise the lease agreement and a new arrangement be agreed with John Hampden School to charge £15 for use of Elms Park for their annual Sports Day.
14 Speed Indicator Device
The Acting RFO advised that the Town Council had acquired the Speed Indicator Devices and the draft hire agreement was presented for approval. After some discussion, it was agreed that a deposit should be required when hiring the devices. It was agreed that Officers would insert the deposit amount and relevant clauses into the agreement and application form.
- The Speed Indicator Device Hire Agreement be approved in principle, subject to the deposit amount and clause being inserted.
15 St Mary’s Church Burial Ground Extension
The Acting Town Clerk advised that this was a longstanding project and could be concluded following approval of the awarded funds and S106 Terms and Conditions. St Mary’s Church had been patient and supportive in overseeing the project, with the Town Council organizing the finances and contractor appointment for the repair works. The S106 funds will enable the historic wall and capping stones to be repaired which are currently a health and safety concern.
- The awarded funds and S106 Terms and Conditions for the extension of St Mary’s Burial Ground be approved.
16 Reports from Representatives on External Organisations
The reports were noted.
Health Hub (including Community Hub Pilot): –
Cllr Champken-Woods reported that the Community Assessment and Treatment service had now re-opened.
17 Thame Museum
The Asset Manager reported that the contractor had been onto the museum roof and confirmed the refurbishment of the glass lantern would be straightforward. The specialist contractor had been onto the roof today to inspect the lead which, when repaired, will weather-proof the building. The Asset Manager advised that following this visit, the contractor will now propose the works required with costings. It was hoped that this would be within budget and may be less than expected.
18 War Memorial Panel – Additional Names
The Asset Manager presented the report which provided a progress update on the project, including initial costings and a timeline. The final proposal would be presented to Full Council when available. The additional names were due to be added this year, with an accompanying event, to coincide with the centenary of the War Memorial unveiling, however this had been delayed due to Covid-19.
There were various views on whether the event should coincide with the Remembrance Service event / Armistice Day, or have its own stand-alone event in 2022. It was noted that there was no national guidance on this type of event. This would form part of discussions when the full proposal is presented to Council.
19 Thame Town Cricket Club
As landlords for the Cricket Ground, it was noted that replacement signage will be installed at the entrance of the Cricket Pavilion.
20 Thame History Fair
It was noted that the free use of the Upper Chamber for the History Fair has been carried forward to Sunday 19 June 2022 due to the event being unable to take place yet due to Covid-19 and that the grant award for the History Fair will remain with the Museum as a restricted fund until June 2022.
Members were pleased to see the History Fair was still being planned for. Following discussion under Item 18, the Acting Town Clerk suggested that the History Fair could incorporate the event to mark the unveiling of the additional names on the War Memorial.
21 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 Town Hall in relation to Thame Town Music Festival – July 2021
- Free use of Town Hall in relation to Thame Youth Projects
Cllr Midwinter advised that she had booked the Town Hall for the Charity Fair in November, which was usually given as free use. This would be formally reported once confirmed by the Acting Town Clerk.
22 Compliments and Complaints
The report was noted.
23 For Information
The Acting Town Clerk advised that the District Council had not yet provided the CCTV report, but this would be circulated when available.
It was noted that from the 1 May 2021, the Cricket Field and Church Road will be included within the Public Spaces Protection Order.
The meeting concluded at 7:39pm
Chairman, 3 August 2021