27 February 2024 – Minutes (draft)


Minutes of a Meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee held on 27 February 2024 at 6.30pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall.


Cllrs P Cowell, D Dawson, D Dodds (Deputy Chairman), H Dollman, M Dyer (Chairman), H Fickling, A Gilbert (Deputy Town Mayor), H Richards, P Swan


M Sturdy, Town Clerk
K Slater, Corporate Services Manager & Responsible Financial Officer (RFO)
A Oughton, Operations Manager
L Fuller, Committee Services & Processes Officer


1) Apologies for Absence

Apologies for absence received from Cllrs Bretherton (personal) and Dite (personal).

Cllr Champken-Woods was absent without apology.


2) Declarations of Interest and Dispensations

There were no declarations of interest or dispensations.


3) Public Participation and Public Questions

There were no applications to address the Committee.
There were no questions put to the Committee.


4) Minutes

The Minutes of the Committee Meeting held on 7 November 2023 were received.


  1. The minutes of the meeting held on 7 November 2023 are confirmed as a correct record, and signed by the Chairman.


5) Citizens Advice

Cllr Richards entered the meeting during this item.

Ms. Hook, Advice Service Manager for Citizens Advice Thame, gave a verbal presentation to the committee. It was pleasing that there had been an increase in the number of volunteers, with several in training or lined up to complete it in the coming months. Volunteers are key to the performance of the service. In the next month, a third drop-in session will launch on Mondays. The drop-in sessions are providing popular. An email advice service has recently launched and been popular with those who cannot attend during working hours.

The main concern is the potential noise impacts from the proposed upgrades to the public toilets at Market House. A surveyor had been recently which had been quite noisy. Planning permission and listed building approval will be required before any works can begin. Citizens Advice Thame may need to hold face-to-face interviews in alternative locations temporarily to avoid noise disruption, although there would be a financial impact to this.

Citizens Advice helps people with a range of issues such as debt, unemployment, and relationship breakdowns. People of all ages use the service, although slightly more women than men do. The service helps people outside of Thame; however, the priority is Oxfordshire based as the service receives no funding from Buckinghamshire. Regardless of location, the service will always try to help those in crisis and in vulnerable situations, and has never knowingly turned someone away. Thame Citizens Advice service is popular due to its convenient and accessible locations, as well as being one of the few local branches to offer a drop-in service.

Over the last year, there had not been a drop in demand, but fewer volunteers meant less people were able to be helped. The telephone system is being upgraded from April to enable calls to the central phone number to be redirected to the Oxfordshire area, to enable local advisors to advise local people.

The grants available for energy efficiency are often just for homeowners and those on a mortgage. Citizens Advice work with rental and social housing providers to support more people to access the grants. Locally, Citizens Advice have worked with Thame Green Living to distribute draught excluders and have received a grant from Sharing Life Trust to help provide people with microwave ovens and heated blankets.

Ms. Hook invited Councillors to visit the Thame Citizens Advice on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.


6) Financial Update

Members received the budget summary and balance sheet up to 31 December 2023 and noted the financial updates. The financial position is as expected.

It was noted that last year there had been aspirations to raise the hall hire income, so it was disappointing this had not been achieved and that there had been a loss of regular hirers. The committee asked for further details on this to establish their reason for leaving.

There was a need to increase marketing of the hall hire, better monitor the hall utilisation and explore ways to improve the offering. Advice and assistance from Councillors are welcome.


6a) Urgent Item

Under Standing Order 21.8No business may be transacted at a meeting of the Committee which is not specified in the agenda for the meeting unless the Chairman of the meeting agrees that the item should be considered as a matter of urgency and the reason for the urgency shall be specified in the minutes.”

In consultation and agreement with the Chairman, the Town Clerk explained the reason for the urgent item.

The Town Council have been working with South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) on short-, medium-, and long-term solutions to the flooding problems in Cuttle Brook which has led to one property being flooded. The short-term work identified must be completed by 1 April due to the nesting season and, following discussions with contractors, this work needs to start early next week. The initial quotation, two more will be received in the coming days, is for circa £12,000 for one watercourse. There is just over £13,000 in earmarked reserves for Cuttle Brook flood mitigation. In addition to the flood risk and associated property risk, there is also a reputational risk element by doing nothing. The Town Council is working with the Cuttle Brook volunteers to ensure there is minimal disruption to habitats and the environment during these works.

Given this committee has a maximum delegated spending authority of £10,000, and to enable works to start, the committee is asked to approve that works can begin under this delegated spending authority and make a recommendation to Full Council to approve any further works beyond £10,000.

What will the work entail? The Town Clerk will prepare a report for Full Council. The work will involve removing silt and widening of the watercourses at Cox’s Wood and behind Cedar Cresent properties. Some work can wait until the summer.

Could the work be supported by volunteers? Whilst the Cuttle Brook Nature Reserve volunteers have been involved in the discussions, the nature of the work would be too high risk.

Concern was raised at putting money towards a short-term solution without consideration of the wider factors such as the natural/man-made course of the brook, the impact of housing development, and historical flood imagery. Any work to the Cuttle Brook will require the Environment Agency’s permission and will be in discussion with the River Thame Conservation Trust. The works are part of a wider plan. All contractors who have quoted, or will quote, have worked with SODC on similar projects.


  1. To authorise the raising of a purchase order up to £10,000 to enable a contractor to begin emergency flood alleviation works at Cuttle Brook.


  1. To approve any additional expenditure required in excess of that approved by this committee.


7) Financial Overspends

Members received the financial overspends as follows:

  • Staff training £5700 (2 Navigator courses & 1 Community Governance)
  • Telephone £400 (BT increase & replacement staff mobile)
  • Rates £520 (frozen for 2 years and now increased across Town Hall, Depot & Market)
  • Fair £230 – additional line marking.

It was noted that some of these had been offset by income or covered by earmarked reserves. The overall budget is forecasting an underspend of £18,000 at year end.


8) Investment Update

Members noted the summary of the investment performance up to December 2023. The fourth quarter performance had been poor across the board. Rathbones provide a more detailed report to accompany the performance update, and this can be circulated.

It was noted that the drawdown in January of £250,000 for Elms Park (to forward-fund the S106 monies due) and funding towards the Community and Youth Project Building on Southern Road Recreation Ground, does not show on this investment portfolio update. It was noted that the Investment Strategy is being updated and will seek to ensure that any money withdrawn is repaid into the investment portfolio.


9) Utilities Update

Members received the quarterly data analysis report. Officers have negotiated fixed prices on all but one of the Town Council’s energy accounts, resulting in a saving of £4,000. The Town Hall contract has two years remaining, however with energy prices expected to fall, a further saving is expected.

At the last committee meeting, it was noted that there had been a pronounced increase in electricity usage at the Depot. This was due to the usage of electric heaters for several weeks over the winter months due to a broken boiler.


10) Health & Safety

The Health & Safety visit reports for the Town Hall and Depot were noted. A few matters had been identified for action which Officers were progressing with a view to have all remedied by the next meeting of this committee.


11) Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy

Only one amendment was proposed, which involved adding a piece of legislation to the policy.


  1. That the Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy be re-adopted.


12) Grants

The committee were asked to agree the wording for a press release to be issued regarding there being no grants scheme in 2024/25. Officers had prepared some wording which had been circulated to the committee. There were no additional comments therefore the following wording was agreed:

“To help reduce this year’s costs and keep the precept increase as low as possible, Thame Town Council have taken the difficult decision to pause their annual Community Grant Scheme. Whilst this does not include the grants given to the Red Kite Family Centre, Thame Youth Projects, Thame Senior Friendship Centre, and the Citizens Advise Bureau, it does mean that there will not be opportunities for other local groups to bid for funds this year. The Council will review this decision before the 2025/26 budget is set and will aim to incorporate funding assistance to the scope of work for the new fundraiser / grants officer role.”

The accounts for Thame Senior Friendship Centre, as required by their annual grant award, were noted.

It was noted that the Grants Policy is due for review however the review will be postponed until later in 2024 as there is no grants scheme in 2024/25.


13) Town Guide 2024

The report was noted. This year’s Town Guide was smaller than previous years due to a reduced interest in advertising. Ideas were welcome for how, and whether, to produce next year’s Town Guide.

The Town Guide has always been a valuable source of information and an annual production, with it being brought in house in 2019. It was noted that the main cost related to delivery to every home.

The general consensus amongst the committee was that the online Town Guide should be kept up to date. It was suggested that next year’s guide is not delivered to every house, but rather make it available in key town centre locations and at elderly accommodation buildings. All estate agents should have a copy to give to new residents.


14) Market Working Group

The Market Working Group had met informally earlier today with representatives from the Thame Market Co-Operative. The market is doing well but struggling post-Covid with a decline in stallholders. Discussion focused on ways the Town Council can help the market, such as through influencing parking control, increased marketing, and addressing challenges for people attending the market. This could be achieved through a partnership agreement. Another meeting has been scheduled for July to continue discussions.


15) Thame Museum

The Building Condition report for Thame Museum was noted. The comprehensive report also outlines a 5-year property management plan. The reports for the Town Hall and Depot are currently being written.

There are some matters requiring immediate action which relates to the roof and external walls, windows, and doors. The report author has given an indicative cost of the works of around £15,500. There are some funds available in earmarked reserves with additional funds due in the new financial year.

The museum’s lease is not a full repairing lease. The building is owned and partly maintained by Thame Town Council.

Concern was raised that money had already been spent on repairing the Museum’s roof lantern. The lantern has been repaired however water is entering through the lead flat roof. The first step will be to undertake a dry leak test to identify where the problem area is.

After some discussion, it was agreed that Officers would progress the survey and a more invasive survey of the roof to produce a detail scope on which quotations for remedial work can be obtained.


16) Reports from Representatives on External Organisations

The reports were noted.


17) Thame Youth Memorial

It was noted that refurbishment work will commence on Saturday 13 April 2024. The works are expected to take 6-8weeks, with some of that including a skip being placed on the highway which Officers are progressing the relevant permissions for.


18) Land Acquisition

It was noted that Officers, in conjunction with Planning Enforcement, have investigated a potential unlawful land acquisition on Lenthall Green by a property on Montrose Way and action has been taken. The property owner has been given the option to apply for change of use (although the District Council have indicated this was unlikely to be supported), return the fence to its original position, or face legal action.


19) Staffing Update

The following staff changes, due in the coming months, were noted:

  • The Administration Officer & PA to the Mayor will be retiring in April after almost 20 years of service to Thame.
  • The current Community Services Officer will be moving across to take up a new challenge after 17 years in the role, to become the Administration Officer & PA to the Mayor.
  • A new Customer Service Officer has been appointed and will take up the role in the information centre from April covering 4 days per week – with the 5th day being covered as part of the apprentice role.
  • An advertisement for a Level 3 Business Administration Apprentice was published earlier today aiming for a start in April / May.
  • An advertisement for up to 1-year Maternity Cover for the Community and Events Officer is shortly to be released aiming for a start in May/June.
  • Work is also underway for the recruitment of a Horticultural Apprentice and a Funding Officer.

All of these positions with financial implications have Full Council approval and have been included in the 2024/25 Budget.

It was noted Thame Town Council took part in Lord Williams’s School future fest on Wednesday, 21 February 2024, to advertise the upcoming Apprenticeship roles. The event had been beneficial to raise awareness of opportunities at the Town Council, including opportunities for people to volunteer or become councillors in the future.

Regarding the apprenticeship role, this will be promoted through the school and the Government’s website. The timeframe may make it challenging to recruit a student. There are options to cover the fifth day in the information centre should the apprentice role not be filled in time.


20) CCTV

The CCTV report for April 2023 – September 2023 was noted.

It was noted that Cllrs Dawson, Dollman, and Emery recently visited the CCTV Control Room to understand how the service operates and the benefits of the service. Cllr Dawson suggested that the town centre CCTV imagery could be useful for monitoring car park usage.

In light of the increase in shoplifting, it was noted that the local police are working with the District Council’s CCTV team and Town Council to relaunch the Thame Shopwatch scheme.


21) Free Use / De Minimis Delegated Authority

The report of the Free Use 2023-24 and 2024-25 (and equivalent cost) granted by the Town Clerk through Free Use / De Minimis delegated authority was noted.



The meeting concluded at 8:02pm



Signed ………………………………                Date ……………………………