30 August 2022 – Minutes
THAME TOWN COUNCIL
Minutes of a Meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee held on 30 August 2022 at 6.30pm in the Upper Chamber, Thame Town Hall.
Cllrs B Austin, D Bretherton, N Champken-Woods, P Cowell (Town Mayor), A Dite (Deputy Town Mayor), D Dodds (Deputy Chairman), M Dyer (Chairman), H Fickling, A Gilbert, A Midwinter, H Richards
M Sturdy, Town Clerk
K Slater, Responsible Financial Officer (RFO) & Office Administration Manager
A Oughton, Asset Manager
L Fuller, Committee Services Officer
B Bennett, Communications & Events Officer
1 Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence received from Cllr Gregory (personal).
2 Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
A dispensation was in place for Cllrs Bretherton, Cowell, Dite, Dodds, Dyer, Emery, and Midwinter to speak and vote on any matter relating to Thame Museum.
3 Public Participation and Public Questions
Mr Paul Earley, a Thame Museum Trustee, spoke in support of resubmitting the planning application at Thame Museum and circulated some hard-copy proposals. The previous permissions to extend the museum had lapsed in 2020, and the Museum Trustees were now seeking to reinvigorate the plans. The Museum has become increasingly popular, hosting a range of community activities and events. There is also a need to increase storage space and the street presence, as well as to accommodate a growing local population in Thame and surrounding villages. The Trustees would be applying for grant funding as part of the project to extend the museum, and would work with the Town Council to provide a better service to the community.
It was confirmed that the disabled access as existing would be provided.
The Minutes of the Committee Meetings held on 12 April 2022 and 10 May 2022 were confirmed as a correct record, and were signed by the Chairman.
5 Thame Museum
Members were asked to consider whether to resubmit the planning and listed building applications related to the proposed extension of the Museum.
A question was raised as to where the funding would come from? There would be a combination of fundraising and Town Council funds, but at this stage the request is to just submit the planning application and fund the technical drawings. As this is a Town Council building, there is no cost to submit the planning application, and grant funding is often subject to planning permission being secured.
A question was raised as to whether consideration had been given to reducing the energy consumption of the building or more sustainable energy sources? That could certainly be investigated, and further detail would follow, although it was noted that listed building consent would be required for solar panels.
Another question was raised as to why the Town Council should support the resubmission of this application, when the Museum allowed it to expire last time? Cllr Dite advised that this was an oversight and, whilst there were no timescales, the priority is to secure planning permission and then get the community’s views and fundraise.
- Consent is given to Thame Museum Trust to develop the property as per lease obligations.
- The request from Thame Museum Trust for £500 funding, as detailed in the report to enable planning applications to be submitted, be approved.
6 Financial Update
Members received the budget summary and balance sheet up to 30 June 2022 and noted the financial updates.
The RFO & Office Administration Manager advised that due to significantly rising utility costs, it was likely that an overspend would be reported at the end of the second quarter at the next committee meeting and expenditure would significantly exceed budgets. The RFO & Office Administration Manager had secured favourable gas and electric rates on all buildings except the Town Hall due to an administrative issue with the supplier. There had been an unexpectedly high water bill at Southern Road Recreation Ground which was likely due to the supplier underestimating the bill for many years. In order to monitor this, the Town Council will be taking regular meter readings including before and after hirings / events. On a positive note, the alarm system has been transferred to an internal line at a cost of £400 but this will save £120/year due to there now being no phone call rates.
Was there an impact on fuel costs for the Maintenance team? The budget had been increased at last year’s budget setting but there will be an overspend longer term unless prices fall.
When would Members see the second quarter budget report? The RFO & Office Administration Manager advised this would be at the next committee meeting, but that she was reviewing the budgets weekly. It was suggested that Members should receive the budgets more frequently, however this was difficult as the accountant works around 3-4 weeks behind and due to meeting dates.
The report was noted.
8 Investment Update
The investment performance update was noted. The portfolio performance reflected the challenging wider market conditions. Members would receive the annual presentation from Rathbones at the November meeting, which would breakdown the investments within the portfolio.
9 Council Policies
Six policies were presented for approval with only minor / no changes proposed.
- The Complaints Policy, Document Retention and Disposal Policy, Freedom of Information Policy, Information and Data Protection Policy, Information Management Strategy and Social Media and Media Relations Policy be approved.
10 Memorial Policy
The Community Services Manager had drafted this policy, so the Town Council had a procedure to handle requests for memorial benches, trees or shrubs, as well as ensuring their ongoing maintenance.
It was suggested that the application form be updated to ask why someone is applying for the memorial. It was also suggested that requests to remember military personnel should initially be considered by the War Memorial Panel, and requests to remember young people should be put via the Thame Youth Memorial Trust. The Asset Manager agreed to add these into the policy.
Post meeting note: An old version of the draft Memorial Policy was erroneously circulated to Councillors. Officers had updated the policy to include the Thame Youth Memorial in section 2.3. Councillors received the correct version via e-mail after the meeting.
A question was raised as to who removes benches and who pays for their removal? The Town Council would be responsible for removing them but this would be at minimal cost.
It was clarified that the applicant would pay for the bench / tree and any installation costs. The policy only covers requests for benches / trees on Town Council land.
- The Memorial Policy and Memorial Application Form be adopted, subject to the alterations as discussed.
It was suggested that the Grant Award policy be updated to prevent applications for retrospective events / activities. It was noted that the Town Council does receive requests from organisations that run out of money, but it is the responsibility of the organisation to ensure adequate funds are available for their project / event.
- The updated Grant Award policy be approved.
It was noted that the terms of the 2022-23 grant award to 594 (Thame) Squadron Royal Air Force Air Cadets have been amended to remove the stipulation that the first aid equipment is made available to other community groups, due to concerns regarding health and safety. This was agreed in consultation with the Grants Awards panel via e-mail.
Members received the reports from organisations that received over £2,000 in grant funding during 2021-22 and 2022-23.
12 Flag Flying
It was noted that the Flag Flying policy has been updated to include wind speed restrictions on flag flying, and that the Ukrainian and Pride flags had been purchased. It was also noted that the policy will be further updated to remove reference to Europe Day.
Regarding the Ukrainian flag, this is being flown whilst English lessons for the Ukrainians are being held in the Town Hall, and the Community Services Manager had suggested that the flag be removed when the flagpole is taken down for the September Fair, but it could be removed sooner, and perhaps it is only flown once a year on the Independence Day of Ukraine (24 August), if the conflict is ongoing. Members supported the flag being flown to show support, and had no issue with the flag being flown until the flagpole is removed, however concern was raised about flying the flag on Ukraine’s (or any other country’s) independence (or national) day as it could set a precedent. If this were to be supported, it would require regular reviewing.
With regards to the pride flag, it was explained that this had been purchased and flown, via the Town Clerk’s delegated authority, following a suggestion from a local resident and researching other local councils.
Overall, it was felt that the flag flying policy required further discussion and consideration.
- The Flag Flying Policy is brought back to this committee for review and ratification.
13 War Memorial Names
The report was noted. The Asset Manager advised that the planning application had been submitted and would be considered by the Planning & Environment Committee next week. Due to rising costs over recent months, updated quotations would be obtained. The target unveiling date was now May 2023 rather than September 2022 as previously suggested by the committee.
14 Ceremonial Robes
The report was noted. The Communications and Events Officer presented an options and indicative costs paper for the purchase of ceremonial robes, based on the experiences of other local councils who own them. The Town Council currently borrows robes from Aylesbury Town Council for ceremonial events such as the recent Freedom Parade. The expected indicative cost would be around £18,000.
Members thanked the Communications and Events Officer for the report, however overall Members could not justify this expenditure to the public, particularly given the current economic climate. It was noted that the examples in the report were historically borough councils and therefore already had robes when they became town councils. One option could be to find a sponsor for the robes, as the Mayor’s and Deputy Mayor’s chains are sponsored by local families.
- The Town Council does not purchase Ceremonial Robes.
15 Reports from Representatives on External Organisations
The reports were noted.
Thame Senior Friendship Centre:-
Cllr Midwinter noted that the Chairman of the TSFC had circulated a detailed report for the previous committee meeting, hence there being nothing to report this time.
16 Town Hall Information Centre Opening Hours
It was noted that the Thame Information Centre will be re-opening during lunchtimes. As from Monday 19 September 2022, the Information Centre opening hours will be:
- Monday – Wednesday, 9am to 4:30pm
- Thursday – 10am to 4:30pm
- Friday – 9am to 4pm
Members were pleased to see that the Information Centre would be open at lunchtimes again. A question was raised as to whether it would be open on Saturdays? The Town Clerk advised this would be something to consider in future.
17 Civil Parking Enforcement
It was noted that the Town Council will continue to issue trade permits via a scratch-card scheme on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council. The RFO & Office Administration Manager advised that this will generate around £1,200 annually for the Town Council, with each permit costing 6p and being sold for £7.50. The Town Council are processing and registering the permits, which are also subject to an auditing process. The permits are limited to trade persons working in the town, although occasionally it may be necessary for Town Council staff to use the permits.
18 Barns Centre Lease
It was noted that the Town Clerk is beginning the review of the Barns Centre lease, due in 2023, in discussion with the Barns Centre Trustees.
19 Upper Chamber Chairs
It was noted that Officers will be revisiting this in the coming months in line with the Council’s procurement policy with a view to have the replacement chairs purchased by the end of the year. There are reserved funds in place for this.
It was noted that the Maintenance Team will undergo IPAF (International Powered Access Federation) training to ensure compliance with LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations).
It was also noted that relevant Officers have completed training by South Oxfordshire District Council on the new county wide Code of Conduct. Training for Councillors on 15th and 28th September 2022 has been circulated.
21 Staffing Update
It was noted that five candidates were interviewed for the position of Communications & Events Officer, with the successful candidate Ben Bennett commencing employment on Monday 4 July 2022.
It was also noted that the Town Council provided work experience for two students from Lord Williams’s School for the week commencing 4 July 2022.
22 Free Use / De Minimis Delegated Authority
The report of the Free Use 2022-23 (and equivalent cost) granted by the Town Clerk, through Free Use / De Minimis delegated authority, was noted.
The meeting concluded at 7:26pm
Chairman, 1 November 2022