Minute of Meeting of the Sutherland County Committee held in Brora Community Centre, Brora on Monday 4 September 2006 at 10.30am.

 

Present

 

Councillor F R M Keith (Chairman)

Councillor R Finlayson

Councillor A Mackay

Councillor A Magee

 

1. Apologies

 

Councillor D Allan (On Other Council Business)

Councillor I Ross

 

In Attendance

 

G McLaughlin, Area Manager

B Couston, Area Education, Culture & Sport Manager

L Wilmot, Area Community Care Manager

D Grant, Area Children’s Services Manager

R McFadyen, Area Finance Manager

L O’Neill, Area Administrator

C Mackenzie, Principal Planner

D Cowie, Principal Planner

C Ratter, Principal Environmental Health Officer

S Sutherland, Principal Housing Officer

G Taylor, Property Manager (North)

B Robertson, Senior Planner

B Mackenzie, Planner

K Ferguson, Home Care Coordinator

A Macrae, Administrator

 

2. Minute of Meeting of 14 August 2006

 

The Minute of Meeting of 14 August 2006 was approved.

 

3. Minute of Meeting of Special Meeting of 14 August 2006

 

The Minute of Special Meeting of 14 August 2006.


Resources

 

Note: Mr A Mackay, Portfolio Holder for Resources took the Chair.

 

4. Chief Executive’s Service Financial Monitoring Report

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-157-06 (16kb pdf) by the Area Manager appending financial monitoring report for the period 1 April 2006 – 31 July 2006.  The report recommended that Members continue to monitor the budget through the report.

 

The Committee AGREED to continue to monitor the budget through the report.

 

5. Finance Service Financial Monitoring Report

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-158-06 (20kb pdf) by the Area Finance Manager appending financial monitoring report for the Finance Service for the period 1 April – 31 July 2006.  It is recommended that Members continue to monitor the budget through the report.

 

The Committee AGREED to continue to monitor the budget through the report.

 

6. Housing Revenue Account Financial Monitoring Report

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-159-06 (34kb pdf) by the Area Manager appending financial monitoring report for the Housing Revenue Account for the period 1 April 2006 to 31 July 2006. The report recommended that Members continue to monitor the budget through the report.

 

The Committee AGREED to continue to monitor the budget through the report.

 

7. Education, Culture and Sport Service Financial Monitoring Report

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-160-06 (48kb pdf) by the Area Education, Culture & Sport Manager appending financial monitoring report for the Education, Culture & Sport Service for the period 1 April – 31 July 2006.  The report recommended that Members continue to monitor the budget through the report.

 

Referring to the Sutherland Swimming Pool Complex, the Manager reported that the final report from the consultants is awaited and he anticipated confirmation from Property & Architectural Services on the works required will be received in the near future.

 

The Committee AGREED to continue to monitor the budget through the report.

 

8. Social Work Services Financial Monitoring Report

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-161-06 (30kb pdf) by the Area Community Care Manager appending financial monitoring report for Social Work Services for the period 1 April 2006  – 30 June 2006.  The report recommended that Members note the information contained in the report.

 

Members heard from the Manager on the continuing pressure on the home care budget, and he introduced Jacqui Ferguson who had recently been appointed as Home Care Co-ordinator.

 

Referring to the Tongue and Farr area, Mr A Mackay expressed concern at the lack of cover when home care staff take holidays.  Mrs Ferguson informed Members that she had sought to employ additional staff, but that difficulties that had been encountered in terms of recruitment.

 

Mr Mackay also reported that any staff on the North coast undertaking additional hours had been advised that rather than receiving overtime payments they should take time off in lieu.  Mrs Ferguson stressed that she was unaware of any such arrangement, and undertook to investigate the matter further.

 

The Committee AGREED to continue to monitor the budget through the report, and that the Home Care Coordinator investigate the position in respect of overtime for staff working additional hours.


Education, Culture and Sport

 

Note: In the absence of Mr D Allan, Portfolio Holder for Education, Culture & Sport, the Chairman took the Chair.

 

9. Report on Integrated Inspection of Farr High School Nursery Class

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-162-06 (53kb pdf) by the Area Education, Culture & Sport Manager summarising the report on the integrated inspection by the Care Commission and HM Inspectorate of Education of Farr High School Nursery Class.  The report recommended that Members note the recommendations for improvement arising from the inspection, and that an action plan will be drawn up by the relevant officers on the basis outlined in the report.

 

The Committee AGREED to note the recommendations for improvement arising from the inspection, and that an action plan will be drawn up by the relevant officers on the basis outlined in the report.


10. Report on Integrated Inspection of Stoer Primary School Nursery Class


There had been circulated Report No. SU-163-06 (53kb pdf) by the Area Education, Culture & Sport Manager summarising the report on the integrated inspection by the Care Commission and HM Inspectorate of Education of Stoer Primary School Nursery Class.  The report recommended that Members note the recommendations for improvement arising from the inspection, and that an action plan will be drawn up by the relevant officers on the basis outlined in the report.

 

The Committee AGREED to note the recommendations for improvement arising from the inspection, and that an action plan will be drawn up by the relevant officers on the basis outlined in the report.

 

11. Report on Integrated Inspection of Kinbrace Primary School Nursery Class

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-164-06 (54kb pdf) by the Area Education, Culture & Sport Manager summarising the report on the integrated inspection by the Care Commission and HM Inspectorate of Education of Kinbrace Primary School Nursery Class.  The report recommended that Members note the recommendations for improvement arising from the inspection, and that an action plan will be drawn up by the relevant officers on the basis outlined in the report.

 

The Committee AGREED to note the recommendations for improvement arising from the inspection, and that an action plan will be drawn up by the relevant officers on the basis outlined in the report.

 

12. Report on Rosehall Primary School by HM Inspectorate of Education

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-165-06 (51kb pdf) by the Area Education, Culture & Sport Manager summarising the HM Inspectorate of Education’s report on of Rosehall Primary School.  The report recommended that Members note that as a result of the high performance, strong record of improvement, and effective leadership of the School, the HM Inspectors will make no further reports in connection with the inspection.

 

Mrs A Magee asked that the Headteacher, now retired, be congratulated on the HMI report and thanked for her contribution to education over her career.

 

The Committee AGREED to note that the HM Inspectors will make no further reports in connection with the inspection, and that the former Headteacher be commended as requested by the local Member.

 

13. First Floor Office Space, Library and Cultural Centre, Brora

 

There had been circulated Joint Report No. SU-166-06 (64kb pdf) by the Director of Property & Architectural Services and Area Education, Culture & Sport Manager detailing a proposal to let vacant office space within the Library and Cultural Centre, Brora to the children’s charity Barnardo’s.  The report recommended that Members agree to let the vacant office to Barnardo’s on a year to year basis, subject to terms and conditions to be agreed by the Director of Property & Architectural Services.

 

Mrs R Finlayson queried whether the office will comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.  The Property Manager indicated that the room is intended as office space rather than for public access, but he would clarify this matter.

 

The Committee AGREED to let the vacant office to Barnardo’s on a year to year basis, subject to terms and conditions to be agreed by the Director of Property & Architectural Services.

 

Arising from this item, Mrs A Magee suggested that this report could have been presented by an Area Service Manager, rather than having an official based outwith the Area, attending the meeting, citing this as a waste of officials’ time and resources.  As a point of principle, she asked that in future and where possible reports be presented by locally based staff.

 

The Committee AGREED that wherever possible reports be presented by locally based staff.  

 

14. Lease of Community Garden, Golspie

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-167-06 (13kb pdf) by the Area Administrator seeking approval to extend the lease of the land for a community garden adjacent to Golspie High School, to Golspie Recycling and Environmental Action Network (GREAN).   The report recommended that Members agree to grant GREAN a lease for 15 years over the Community Garden to allow it to access Scottish Arts Council funding.

 

The Committee APPROVED the recommendation.

 

15. Area Children’s Services Forum – Minutes

 

There had been circulated Minute of Meeting of the Area Children’s Services Forum.  The report recommended that Members note the Minute of 14 June 2006.

 

The Committee AGREED to note the Minute of 14 June 2006.

 

16. Dornoch Library – Proposed Opening on Saturday Morning

 

There had been circulated Report No SU-178-06 by the Area Education, Culture & Sport Manager detailing a proposal to alter the opening hours at Dornoch Library on a trial basis by opening on a Saturday morning from October 2006.  The report recommended that Members agree to amend the opening hours at Dornoch Library by closing on Tuesday evenings from 6 – 8pm, and opening on Saturdays from 10am to Noon, on a trial basis for 6 months commencing 1 October 2006.

 

The Committee APPROVED the recommendation.


17. Visiting Teacher Redeployment


There had been circulated Report No SU-179-06 by the Area Education, Culture & Sport Manager providing an update on the implementation of Visiting Teacher redeployments to meet the Class Contact Reduction requirements contained within the McCrone Agreement.   The report recommended that Members note the detail of the revisions to the deployment of visiting teaching staff and the ongoing monitoring and review arrangements which have been put in place.

 

The Chairman expressed concern that travelling time is included as part of Visiting Teachers class contact time, citing a specific case where one third of the teacher’s time is spent travelling.   He observed that it is unfair to apply this in rural areas where teachers travel great distances.   The Manager advised that this issue is being reviewed by the Head of Education Services, and as this is being done centrally the opportunity exists for additional resources to be allocated to take account of rurality.  A further report detailing the outcome of the review will be submitted in October 2006.

 

Mrs R Finlayson indicated that there is no art provision at Helmsdale Primary School and this is unacceptable, and reiterated the point in relation to travel time.

 

Members also expressed their concern that decisions had been taken centrally, stating that the Committee could have anticipated the specific issues pertaining to rural areas.

 

The Committee AGREED to note the revisions made to the deployment of visiting teaching staff and the ongoing monitoring and review arrangements in place. Additionally it was AGREED to await the outcome of the Head of Education Service’s review in relation to travel time in rural areas.

 

Housing and Social Work

 

Note: Mr R Finlayson, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Social Work, took the Chair.

 

18. HRA Capital Programme 2007/2008 – 2009/2010

 

There had been circulated Report No SU-168-06 by the Area Manager appending a revised HRA Capital Programme for the period 2007 – 2010.  The report recommended that Members approve the revised Programme for 2007 – 2010 appended to the report.

 

The Committee APPROVED the revised Programme for 2007 – 2010 as appended to the report.

 

19. Housing Capital Programme 2006/07

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-180-06 by the Area Manager and Director of Property and Architectural Services setting out progress with the Housing Capital Programme for 2006/07.  The report recommended that Members continue to monitor progress through the report.

 

Responding to Mrs R Finlayson, the Principal Housing Officer reported that those projects at design stage will not be affected if the proposed Housing Stock Transfer proposals.

 

The Committee AGREED to monitor progress through the report.

 

20. Delayed Hospital Discharge

 

There had been circulated Report No SU-169-06 by the Area Community Care Managers – Caithness and Sutherland advising of the action taken to ensure that delayed hospital discharge targets are met within the Sutherland/North Community Health Partnership area.  The Report recommended that Members note the success achieved in reducing delayed discharge to historic low levels, the process by which patient/client choice is taken into account, and consider the effect that prioritising resources in this manner may have on other activities undertaken by the Social Work Service.

 

Mrs R Finlayson expressed concern at the additional burden placed on Social Work staff as a result of the arrangements.

 

Comments received by e-mail from Mr I Ross were reported to the meeting, stating that a degree of humanity should be retained over what may be considered an acceptable care option where the first choice of care home is not available and the options are significant distances from the area where family and friends reside.  Accordingly Mr Ross sought information on discharges over the last 12-18 months in Sutherland and the extent to which any individuals had been obliged to move outwith their preferred area.

 

The Manager advised that the reduced capacity at Seaforth House whilst the premises were being upgraded had created a particular problem, and that in the last year six people had been placed in an interim location, but that generally capacity matches demand. However cyclical elements can have an impact such as increased demand over the winter months.  He acknowledged the lack of nursing home places in the North and West, and Mr F Keith reported on concerns that exist in Lochinver in this regard.

 

The Manager confirmed that he would bring a further report in response to the information requested by Mr I Ross.

 

The Committee AGREED to note the success achieved in reducing delayed discharge to historic low levels and the process by which patient/client choice is taken into account. Additionally it was AGREED that the Manager submit a further report on discharges over the last 12-18 months in Sutherland and the extent to which any individuals had been obliged to move outwith their preferred area.

 

21. Home Care Budget

 

There had been circulated Report No SU-170-06 by the Area Community Care Manager setting out the budgetary issues in relation to the Home Care Service and the management action being taken to address the situation.  The report recommended that Members note the action taken in response to the budgetary issues.

 

Mrs R Finlayson asked that the eligibility criteria laid out in the Home Care Procedures Manual be circulated to Members.  The Home Care Coordinator confirmed that she would arrange for this to be circulated.

 

The Committee AGREED to note the management action being taken to address the pressures on the Home Care budget.

 

Planning and Development

 

Note: Mr F Keith, Chairman of Planning and Development resumed the Chair.

 

22. Erection of 4 x 1.75 storey dwellinghouses with private access road at Church Hill Road, Lairg for Allan Mackay (06/00181/FULSU)

 

With reference to Item 1.15 of the Minute of Meeting of 4 September 2006, there had been circulated Report No. SU-171-06 recommending that the application 06/00181/FULSU for the erection of 4 x 1.75 storey dwellinghouses with private access road at Church Hill Road, Lairg for Allan Mackay be approved subject to the conditions contained in the report previously circulated to the Committee on 14 August 2006, and appended to the report.

 

Mrs A Magee stated her concern that the original planning appraisal was deficient in that it did not analyse the design of the houses, nor the nature of the surrounding houses, and that while she was satisfied that an area of waste land is to be developed, an improved design could have been achieved.

 

The Senior Planner advised that the material finishes of the properties matched those of nearby developments and that design of the properties in a constrained gap site is suitable for the type of market the developer is targeting.

 

Mrs Magee noted that these comments had been absent in the original planning appraisal.

 

The Committee APPROVED the application subject to the conditions contained in the report.

 

23. Erection of house, installation of septic tank and soakaway and formation of new access at Crofts 408 & 412, Knockan, Elphin for John G Fyfe (06/00049/FULSU)

 

With reference to item 1.6 of the Minute of Meeting of 24 April 2006, there had been circulated Report No. SU-172-06 by the Area Planning & Building Standards Manager providing an update on the application 06/00049/FULSU for the erection of house, installation of septic tank and soakaway and formation of new access at Crofts 408 & 412, Knockan, Elphin for John G Fyfe previously considered at the Committee on 24 April 2006.  The report recommended that Members take a view on the application, noting that the applicant has lodged an appeal on the grounds the Planning Authority failed to give a decision, so that this can be intimated to the Scottish Executive Inquiry Reporter’s Unit.

 

The Chairman reported on attempts to reach a resolution by meeting on site with the applicant and objectors.  He expressed disappointment that this had been resisted by the applicant.  The objectors concerns are well founded in that the development will be extremely visible and impact on the panorama, and the outlook from a well used access path to the site of the Bone Caves, in a National Scenic Area.  While he had no difficulty with the construction of a house in this area, his concerns therefore related to its precise location.  He advised that he was less concerned about the proposed house materials i.e. metal sheet roofing, acknowledging that other houses in the area use similar materials

 

The Committee AGREED to express the view that while the principle of a house in this area is acceptable, its precise location on the skyline is unacceptable and will have a detrimental visual impact within a National Scenic Area.

 

24. Sutherland Local Plan

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-173-06 by the Director of Planning & Development Sutherland Local Plan ‘Issues and Options’ paper for circulation as widely as possible throughout the Local Plan Area and to all stakeholders with an interest.  The report recommended that Members approve; (i) the draft ‘Issues and Options’ paper and its circulation throughout the Area, and to statutory consultees, interested parties and Community Councils, on the basis of a ten week consultation period; (ii) a series of public meetings and local exhibitions, to be chaired by local Members; and  (iii) joint working with SEPA, Scottish Natural Heritage and Historic Scotland for the purposes of Strategic Environmental Assessment in respect of the Issues and Options paper.

 

Members heard from C Mackenzie, Principal Planner on the main changes to the draft options and issues paper as a result of comments received back from Members. The Paper will be produced in a user friendly format, and circulated as detailed in the report with the agreement of the local Member on the basis of a 8 -10 week consultation period, with a further report being submitted to the Committee in January 2007.

 

Mrs A Magee welcomed separate meetings being held in Bonar Bridge and Ardgay but advised that joint discussions in relation to the Industrial Estate would be preferable.

 

Mrs R Finlayson outlined her concerns that flexibility be retained within the Local Plan.

 

The Chairman stated that the schedule of meetings be fixed as soon a possible and should avoid the public travelling over the winter months.  He also suggested that if a landowner refuses to release land zoned for housing in the Local Plan after a given period of time,  it be removed from the Plan and a reserve area introduced.

 

Mrs A Magee reported that Scottish Water is to provide details of its proposals to deal with constraints up until 2010.  A report is to be tabled at the full Council meeting on 21 September 2007, which she hoped will set out dates for improvements.

 

The Committee APPROVED the recommendations subject to members comments detailed above, and AGREED that a schedule of dates for public meetings and local exhibitions be compiled, in consultation with Members, at the earliest opportunity.

 

25. ILM Programme in Sutherland: Funding 2007

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-174-06 by the Area Development Manager detailing a proposal to make a contribution of £32,500 during financial years 2006/07 and 2007/08 to ILM (Highland) towards its Sutherland project.  The report recommended that Members approve a contribution of £32,500 from the HRA, Development and TEC Services budgets in 2006/07 and 2007/08, and express support in principle for ILM’s forthcoming bid to the European Social Fund.

 

In reply to a question from Mr Keith about extension of the operations of ILM to other parts of Sutherland, the Manager confirmed that travel costs imposed a restriction on such an extension.  

 

The Committee APPROVED the recommendation.

 

26. Rural Service Priority Areas in Sutherland

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU-175-06 by the Area Development Manager providing an update on progress with the Rural Service Priority Areas initiative in Helmsdale and Kinbrace and in Melvich, Strathy and Armadale.  The report recommended that Members note the progress to date.

 

Mrs R Finlayson asked that Portgower Hall receive a letter from the Council confirming the level funding to be awarded, to allow the Hall Committee to access other sources of funding.  The Manager confirmed he would provide such a letter.

 

Following further discussion it was AGREED to note progress to date and that regular updates be provided to the Committee in due course.

 

Presentation

 

27. Voluntary Groups – East Sutherland

 

The Chairman welcomed Mrs A Keatinge, Voluntary Groups – East Sutherland to the meeting. 

 

Mrs Keatinge proceeded to outline the organisation’s activities over the past year advising that group membership stood at 187 in 2006.  She detailed the office services provided by VGES, and the use made of the Resource Centre by other voluntary organisations, with five offices being let.  Funding through Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise and the Community Economic Development Programme had enabled a part-time Development Officer to be employed until March 2007, and she outlined the work undertaken by the Officer.  A priority will be to investigate further funding to enable this post to continue.

 

Mrs Keatinge advised that she served on a number of organisations such as the Sutherland Partnership, Sutherland Drug and Alcohol Forum, GREAN, and East Sutherland Community Care Forum.  Discussions are also ongoing with the other Councils of Voluntary Services in Caithness and Sutherland concerning setting up a small grants scheme for the voluntary sector, and a training programme, both to be administered through the CVS.

 

Disseminating information to member groups is done through newsletters, a newsflash page on the Website and via e-bulletins.

 

Concluding Mrs Keatinge thanked Members for the annual grant VG-ES receives from the Committee.

 

The Chairman commended the organisation on its activities and for the excellent work carried out.   Members concurred with this view.

 

Responding to questions Mrs Keatinge advised that VG-ES employs four members of staff including the advice service staff, although not all are full-time.  The main bulk of the organisations activities varies but encompasses a broad geographical spread.

 

The Chairman thanked Mrs Keatinge for attending the meeting.

 

The Council resolved that, under Section 50A(4) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the public be excluded from the meeting during discussion of the following item on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 4 & 9 of Part 1 of Schedule 7A of the Act.    

 

28. Sale of Plots at Dornoch Business Park

 

There had been circulated Report No. SU/176/06 by the Director of Planning and Development and the Director of Property & Architectural Services proposing the sale of plots on phase 2 of the Dornoch Business Park.  The report recommended Members approve the sale of three plots by private treaty at market value and other terms and conditions to be agreed by the Director of Property & Architectural Services, and that an application be made to the budget working group to ring fence the sale receipts to provide the necessary site servicing.

 

The Committee APPROVED the recommendation.

 

Housing and Social Work

 

Note: Mr R Finlayson, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Social Work, resumed the Chair.

 

29. Improvements and Repairs Grants

 

There had been circulated Joint Report No SU/177/06 by the Area Manager and Principal Environmental Health Officer detailing current progress within the Non HRA Capital Programme.  The report recommended that Members note the current position within the Non HRA Budget.


 

The Committee AGREED to note the current position within the Non HRA Budget.