Minutes of Meeting of the Transport, Environmental and Community Services Committee held in the Council Chamber, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 10.30 am.
Mr J Laing, Mr B J Murphy, Mr G Farlow, Mr G M Smith, Mr R Coghill, Mr D C M Flear, Mr J McGillivray, Mr R Greene, Ms M Smith, Mr A Rhind, Mrs A MacLean, Mr C Fraser, Mr A Henderson, Mr N Donald, Mr D Henderson, Mr F Parr, Mrs L MacDonald, Mr G Marsden, Mr R Pedersen, Mr F D S Black, Dr M E M Foxley
Non-Members also present:
Mr D Mackay, Mrs I Campbell, Dr A Sinclair, Mrs J Urquhart, Mr M Rattray, Mr R Durham, Ms F Robertson, Dr D Alston, Mr D Millar, Mr B Clark, Mr D Hendry, Mr H Wood, Ms J Campbell, Mr D Kerr, Mrs C Caddick, Ms J Douglas, Mr D Fallows
Mr N Gillies, Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services
Mr R Guest, Head of Roads and Community Works
Mr S MacNaughton, Head of Transport and Infrastructure
Dr C Clark, Head of Waste Management
Mr M Mitchell, Finance Manager
Mr D Summers, Transport Development Officer
Mr B Edwards, Senior Transport Officer
Miss J Maclennan, Principal Administrator, Chief Executive’s Office
Mrs F MacBain, Committee Administrator, Chief Executive’s Office
Mrs R Daly, Committee Administrator, Chief Executive’s Office
Also in attendance:
Mr F Roach, HITRANS
Mr S Davidson, Youth Convener
Dr A Simper, Head of Strategy, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)
Ms A MacConnell, Stakeholder Relations and Socia Economic Manager, NDA
Mr A Anderson, Fuels Programme Manager, Dounreay Site Licence Company
An asterisk in the margin denotes a recommendation to the Council. All decisions with no marking in the margin are delegated to Committee.
Mr J Laing in the Chair
1. Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Mr J Rosie, Mr A Graham and Mr A S Park.
2. Declarations of Interest
The Committee NOTED the following declarations of interest:
Item 4 - Mr G Farlow (Non-Financial) and Mr D Flear (Non-Financial)
Item 18 – Mr N Donald (Financial)
Item 19 (ii) - Mr J MacGillivray (Non-Financial)
3. Good News
The Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services reported on the ILM (Waste Recycling) Group based in Alness which repaired recycled white goods and put them back into the market. The Group had been successful in securing future funding which would help with recycling and protect employment in the Alness area.
The Committee NOTED the good news item.
4. Dounreay Materials Transport
Declarations of Interest
Mr G Farlow and Mr D Flear declared non-financial interests in this item as Chair of the Dounreay Stakeholders Group Site Restoration Sub-Group and Vice-Chair of Dounreay Stakeholders Group respectively but, having applied the test applied in Paragraphs 5.2 and 5.3 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, concluded that their interests did not preclude their involvement in discussion.
There had been tabled at the meeting a letter from the Director of Planning and Development to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) which had outlined the Council’s position on the proposed movement of fuel from Dounreay to Sellafield and the long-term economic effect this would have on Caithness.
Dr Adrian Simper, Head of Strategy at the NDA delivered a presentation on the NDA’s plan to transport, by train, breeder material from Dounreay to Sellafield for reprocessing, for which it had sought approval from the Office for Nuclear Regulation and Office for Civil Nuclear Regulation.
Having explained that Dounreay was Britain’s biggest nuclear site closure project, with closure anticipated by 2025, Dr Simper gave a summary of the fuels and nuclear materials that were currently stored at Dounreay. As the plant did not have the facilities to reprocess the materials or store them long term, the NDA had decided that it would be more cost effective to deal with it at Sellafield.
Transfer of Dounreay breeder material by Direct Rail Services had been agreed following considerable stakeholder engagement, with the first of 94 shipments to be transported in Summer 2012. Further discussions with specific stakeholders would be undertaken with regard to the transfer of other Dounreay exotic fuels and nuclear materials.
During discussion, Members praised the work that had been undertaken by Doureay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) and stressed the importance of a long-term economic legacy being left for the people of Caithness. A bypass of Thurso was being sought to facilitate the movement of freight, particularly to and from Scrabster, and the economic growth of the area.
In response to further comments from Members, it was clarified that:-
- the NDA was committed to its socio-economic obligations in Caithness;
- the breeder material was classed as fuel and not waste;
- local authorities would receive information on the lines the trains would follow, although the exact timings of the trains and security measures would remain confidential;
- risk assessments on the transportation of the fuel would, where possible, be made public, unless classified for security measures, and would be available on request; and
- ‘exotic’ fuels had been so named as they covered a number of little-used materials, to distinguish them from the fuels that were used in much greater quantities, such as magnox and oxide.
The Chairman having thanked Dr Simper, the Committee NOTED the presentation and the letter that had been tabled from Director of Planning and Development to the NDA.
5. Revenue Budget – Monitoring 2011/12
There had been circulated Report No TEC-01-12 (29kb pdf) dated 6 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which set out the revenue monitoring position for the period 1 April 2011 to 30 November 2011 and the projected year-end position.
During a summary of the report, it was explained that, in total, the expenditure was currently in line with the budget outturn target. Expenditure on emergency works, such as landslips and to the Seater landfill site as a result of exceptional weather was being monitored. However, based on the financial performance to date, it was predicted that at the end of the financial year the budget as a whole would be balanced.
Members commented that while the previous two winters had required additional expenditure as a result of severe snow, the winter of 2011/12 had been characterised by heavy rainfall causing drainage problems and damage from flooding, notably to the roads infrastructure. An announcement was made by the Budget Leader that, to address this, it was intended substantial funds for roads repairs would be put into the TEC Services budget for the forthcoming financial year, a proposal welcomed by Members.
Members also commented that there was considerable public support for the switching off or dimming of street lights, especially in rural areas. It was explained, however, that savings from switching off lights had not been as high as had been anticipated and further public engagement was required to encourage support for this in urban areas.
Having heard that savings amounting to £150k from the street cleaning budget and £100k from the public conveniences budget had been transferred to the Community Works budget to avoid a predicted overspend on the Community Works budget, Members suggested that such significant rearrangement of the budget should be explained in the narrative of reports to Members. Some Members voiced concern that money had been removed from street cleaning and public conveniences and, although it was clarified that these reductions had been part of savings previously agreed by the Council, the point was made that a reduction in street cleaning resulted in a build-up of debris in gullies which, in turn, caused drainage and flooding problems.
In order to inform local Community Councils, Ms Robertson sought comparative information on the cost of the various methods of treating potholes and road resurfacing, and on the historical and future programme for road upgrades for her Ward.
In relation to concerns from Members about the effect of staffing levels and staff morale on Service delivery, the Director explained that TEC Services staff attendance records were currently stable, which suggested that staff morale was not low. Staffing levels and vacancies would be addressed in more detail at Item 10 on the agenda.
i. NOTED the report and the attached monitoring statements which showed
the revenue position for the period 1 April 2011 to 30 November 2011 and
the action which had been put in place to manage the budget over the
remainder of the financial year;
ii. NOTED an announcement from the Budget Leader that there would be
substantial funds for roads repairs put into the TEC Services budget for the
forthcoming financial year; and
iii. AGREED that additional financial information in respect of filling potholes,
particularly in relation to road programming, comparative unit costs and
different processes and historical spends on upgrades be made available to
Councillor F Robertson.
6. Capital Expenditure Monitoring – 2011/12
There had been circulated Report No TEC-02-12 (47kb pdf) dated 6 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which summarised the capital expenditure monitoring position for the period 1 April 2011 to 30 November 2011 and the projected outturns for expenditure and income which were £19.310m and £0.675m respectively, leading to a projected overspend of £1.006m.
Following a summary of the report, Members requested a briefing on progress with the A862 Muir of Ord railway bridge to enable them to inform various local groups. Similarly, an update was requested regarding design work on the Dingwall to Kinnairdie Link Road to enable local Members to keep the relevant Community Council up to date.
Members welcomed the progress that had been made with the Inverness South West Alleviation Scheme but expressed concern that, until it was finalised, flooding remained a problem in the Culduthel/Slackbuie area of Inverness, with particular mention being made of blocked culvert on a section of Culduthel Road that was used by pupils going to and from the Inverness Royal Academy.
In response to questions from Members, it was explained that:-
- following completion of snagging works to resolve deformation of the carriageway, the condition of other sections of the A855 Portree-Staffin road were being checked to ensure that damage would not be incurred as a result of peat beneath the road and the use of the road for timber extraction;
- the Director would investigate the road safety implications that could arise due to the short Length of the pedestrian barrier on Academy Street, Inverness, near its junction with Queensgate;
- in relation to cell extension at the Seater Landfill site, the new contract price would be met from adjusting future waste management projects in subsequent financial years and would not affect the Council’s ability to meet other waste management targets in the future; and
- in relation to delays in completion of minor snagging for Inverness City Streetscape works, if the Direct Labour Organisation was not able to complete the work by the end of 2011/12, contractors would be used.
The Committee thereafter:-
i. NOTED the capital expenditure monitoring position for the period 1 April
2011 to 30 November 2011;
ii. APPROVED that £0.150m be brought forward to the current year for the
purchase of new bins to help facilitate the completion of the roll-out of
alternate weekly waste collections;
iii. APPROVED the funding of the plant and vehicle expenditure, totalling
£4.077m, by transferring the lease payment provision to the loan charges
budget, to cover the repayment of debt;
iv. APPROVED that deck waterproofing and associated works for Conon
Bridge be brought forward and completed at the same time as the
improvements required for the new Ben Wyvis Primary School and that the
required funding (£0.250m) be met by adjusting the bridges programme in
v. AGREED that, regarding design work on the Dingwall Kinnairdie Link Road,
update information be provided for Ward Members to allow them to update
the relevant Community Council;
vi. AGREED that a briefing be given to Ward Members in relation to works at
the A862 Muir of Ord railway bridge so that updated information could be
given to the Community Association, Parent Council and Community Council
on this matter;
vii. NOTED assurances in relation to cell extension at Seater Landfill site that
the new contract price to be met from adjusting future waste
management projects in subsequent financial years would not affect the
Council’s ability to meet other waste management targets in the future;
viii. AGREED that the Director look into the road safety implications which
might arise in relation to the short length of a pedestrian barrier on
Academy Street, Inverness near its junction with Queensgate; and
ix. NOTED that, in relation to sections of the Staffin Road that had not been
upgraded, further investigation be undertaken to maintain the integrity of
7. Stromeferry Bypass – Update on Road Closure
There had been circulated Report No TEC-03-12 (19kb pdf) dated 10 January 2012 updating Members on the road closure at the Stromeferry Bypass which had been put in place on to protect the public following a series of rock falls that had started on 22 December 2011.
Contingency measures had included a car and passenger ferry with a supporting bus service, both introduced on 16 January 2012, and a change in train timetable to suit school times. A temporary diversion of traffic onto the railway had been agreed in principle with detailed discussions on-going with Network Rail. Once temporary measures were in place, a detailed inspection of other rock faces would be required, along with a continued programme of inspection and monitoring and a targeted programme of rock stabilisation works. In the longer term, consideration would be given to a permanent road diversion, a bridge at Strome Narrows or an extension of the avalanche shelter, all of which would require significant levels of funding.
Members praised the reaction of Council officials for their efforts to put timeous contingency measures in place and to attend community meetings to explain the situation to local residents. However, it was also important to keep those young people affected by the rock falls, especially those travelling to Plockton High School, informed of developments. The importance and urgency of finding and funding a safe, long-term solution to link Wester Ross and Lochalsh was stressed and should include full engagement with all relevant partners and communities.
In response to comments from Members, it was thought likely that heavy rainfall in recent months had contributed to the rockfall. It was difficult to quantify how long ‘complete stabilisation’ would last, other than a ‘significant’ period. Annual inspection was, however, intended to detect any destabilisation that occurred.
i. NOTED the measures which had been put in place to provide local transport
links between Lochcarron and Kyle;
ii. NOTED that a number of long term solutions, to reduce the risk of future
road closures, were currently being reviewed; and
iii. AGREED that the Council should bring forward the options for a long-term
solution to provide a secure transport link between Wester Ross and
Lochalsh in consultation with partners and communities as a matter of
urgency for approval by the Council.
8. Application for Scottish Government Grant Funding for the River Ness Flood Alleviation Scheme (Tidal Section)
There had been circulated Report No TEC-04-12 (23kb pdf) dated 6 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which invited Members to homologate the decision taken by the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Convener, the Leader of the Council’s Administration, the Chair and Vice Chair of Transport, Environmental and Community Services, the Leader of the Labour Group and the Leader of the Opposition to submit the application for grant funding for the River Ness Flood Alleviation Scheme (Tidal Section) to the Scottish Government by the required date of 23 December 2011.
During discussion, Members voiced support for the application which would fund 80% of the £20.9 million cost of the River Ness (Tidal Section) Flood Prevention Scheme, leaving the Council liable for the remaining £4.2 million (20%), which would be funded from the Council’s Capital Programme. Attention was drawn, however, to the River Ness (non-Tidal Section) Flood Prevention Scheme, which covered the section of the river from Island Bank Road to Ness Bridge, and which had not yet received Planning Permission due to the level of objections. Members expressed concern that the Scheme for that section of the river was unable to proceed until Planning Permission had been approved and, once the outcome of the funding application was known, sought an update on the situation to the relevant Ward Meetings and/or the Inverness City Committee.
Reference was also made to other areas in Highland which had experienced bad flooding, Halkirk being cited as a particular example. Possible causes were suggested, including increasing house numbers, and it was hoped that funding to address these instances on flooding could also be pursued.
i. AGREED to homologate the decision taken by the Chief Executive, in
consultation with the Convener, Leader of the Council’s Administration,
Chair and Vice Chair of Transport, Environmental and Community Services,
Leader of the Labour Group and Leader of the Opposition to submit the
application for grant funding for the River Ness Flood Alleviation Scheme
(Tidal Section) to the Scottish Government;
ii. NOTED that the Council would be require to fund 20% of the scheme for
the Capital Programme and that this would be considered at a future
meeting of the Council; and
iii. AGREED that, once the outcome of the funding application was known,
further information on the River Ness Flood Alleviation Scheme would be
presented to relevant Ward Meetings and/or the Inverness City Committee.
9. Proposals for Future Support for Golspie Recycling Environmental Action Network
There had been circulated Joint Report No TEC-05-12 (20kb pdf) dated 6 January 2012 by the Directors of Transport, Environmental and Community Services and Planning and Development which updated Members on the proposal to replace the recycling services in East Sutherland, currently provided by Golspie Recycling Environmental Action Network (GREAN), with the Council’s alternate weekly collection service and which invited Members to note the work being undertaken to help GREAN make the transition from providing recycling services to a more sustainable business model.
Support for the proposals for GREAN to develop a sustainable business model was voiced. Recognition was made of the work undertaken by GREAN, particularly the introduction of kerbside recycling and as a valued employer. Its impact had been felt across Wards and, as a result, it was requested that, in addition to Local Members being consulted, Members from North West and Central Sutherland also be kept informed of progress with the development of a new business model. It was also clarified that £54k was to be paid to GREAN for recycling services from April to June 2012, a pro rata payment of the normal £217k that GREAN received per annum. However, following the introduction of the Alternate Weekly Waste Collection service, the Council would provide the balance of £163,000 to fund the transition period.
The Youth Convener suggested working with TEC Services to help review presentations made to schools on the matter of recycling and littering to ensure that the messages were appropriate for young people and avoided common misconceptions about young people.
i. NOTED the work being undertaken to help GREAN make the transition from
providing recycling services to a more sustainable business models;
ii. NOTED that a future report would be taken to the Transport,
Environmental and Community Services Committee or appropriate Council
iii. AGREED that the North West and Central Sutherland Members also be kept
informed of on-negotiations with GREAN; and
iv. AGREED that the Youth Convener discuss the option of reviewing
presentations made to schools in relation to littering and recycling with the
Director to ensure the message was appropriate for young people and that
it addressed the misconceptions of young people littering.
10. Review of Vacant Posts and Proposals for Restructuring
There had been circulated Report No TEC-06-12 (68kb pdf) dated 10 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which invited Members to approve staffing proposals as set out in Appendices A, B and C to the report and to recommend these changes to the Resources Committee.
During a summary of the report, further clarification was offered in relation to:-
- posts which were currently vacant;
- posts which were currently filled and which were recommended for deletion (with redeployment opportunities existing for all of these posts); and
- new posts and one existing post which was recommended for re-evaluation due to a change in duties.
With a total savings target of £791k, implementation of the proposals outlined in the report would result in a shortfall of £241k, which would have to be taken into account during the budget setting process for 2012/3.
During discussion, it was clarified that sickness absence levels had not increased over the last year, which was one indication that staff morale was not low as a result of the vacancies not being filled. Several vacancies had been held pending completion of the review, the rationale being that there was little point filling posts which might then be deleted. It was acknowledged by the Director that some lower priority Service delivery work might take longer to complete but, with the Council having agreed savings targets, the proposals outlined in the report were considered the optimal way to achieve these, noting that reorganisation of service delivery had also improved efficiency.
In response to questions from Members, it was explained that:-
- some of the work that would have been undertaken by the Principal Engineer in an Area Office would be undertaken by the specialist Development Control Team. Other elements of work from that post would fall to the Senior Technician;
- an apprentice scheme was already in place for Technicians;
- enforcement staff were being grouped together in larger teams to improve efficiency;
- consultation at local and Ward level on the proposals in the report had not been required as these were operational issues and the mechanism for change was consultation with Trade Unions followed by consideration by the TEC Committee; and
- staff would continue to be shared, when necessary, between Community Works and Waste Management to facilitate Service delivery, especially in relation to severe weather emergencies.
Members commented that, from the general public’s viewpoint, no work could be considered low priority. It was suggested that, given the announcement at the beginning of the meeting by the Budget Leader of additional funds for TEC Services in 2012/13, the staffing review should be reconsidered in light of a possible amended budget.
After discussion, Mr J Laing, seconded by Mr B Murphy, MOVED that the Committee approve the recommendations as set out in the report.
As an AMENDMENT, Ms M Smith, seconded by Mr G Farlow, moved that the Committee defer consideration of the recommendations to take full account of the TEC Committee budget adjustments announced by the Budget Leader earlier in the meeting in order to review properly the overall impact.
On a vote being taken, the MOTION received 11 votes and the AMENDMENT received 5 votes with 2 abstentions and the MOTION was therefore CARRIED, the votes having been cast as follows:-
For the Motion:- Mr S Black, Mr R Coghill, Mr N Donald, Mr R Greene, Mr D Henderson, Mr J Laing, Mrs A MacLean, Mr G Marsden, Mr J McGillivray, Mr B Murphy, Mr F Parr
For the Amendment:- Mr G Farlow, Mr C Fraser, Mrs L MacDonald, Mr R Pedersen, Ms M Smith
Abstentions:- Mr A Henderson, Mr G Smith
i. APPROVED the staffing proposals as set out in the report and detailed in
Appendices A, B and C;
ii. AGREED to recommend these changes to the Resources Committee, and
iii. NOTED that the changes in staffing would be kept under review and that
any major impacts would be the subject of a further report to Members.
The Committee adjourned for lunch at 1.20 p.m. and resumed at 2.00 p.m.
11. Review of the Provision of Public Conveniences
There had been circulated Report No TEC-07-12 (18kb pdf) dated 6 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which invited Members to approve savings proposals in relation to public conveniences for 2012/13.
During a summary of the report, it was explained that the Committee had previously agreed a savings target for public conveniences of £325k for financial years 2011/12 and 2012/13. Savings of £165k had already been achieved leaving £160k to be identified for 2012/13. Following discussions at Ward Business Meetings, a schedule of additional savings had been drawn up which would achieve an overall saving of £96k leaving a shortfall of £69k on the savings target for 2012/13. It was also estimated that further savings in the region of £20,000 could be achieved through discussions with alternate providers and through the introduction of the Highland Comfort Schemes. Approval was sought for officers to continue to develop these proposals with appropriate providers. It was confirmed that, under these proposals, the only fully attended Public Toilet in the Highlands would be at Mealmarket Close (Inverness).
During discussion, Members welcomed the proposed savings but cautioned the need for effective cleansing regimes appropriate to the level of usage with suitable monitoring, perhaps to Ward Business Meetings. Members queried whether the savings had taken into account the potential need for additional maintenance should damage be caused by vandalism at unattended facilities. It was understood that there had not been much take-up of the Highland Comfort Scheme within Inverness city. Therefore, as there would now only be one attended facility in the city, the level of provision might justify review in the future. In relation to small communities, the possibility of selling keys to allow access to public conveniences when closed to such persons as delivery drivers should also be considered.
Responding to these and other comments, it was confirmed that officials had been discussing with contractors the required level of cleansing regimes and a contract monitoring team was currently in place. It was also explained that the Council’s currently unattended public conveniences did not suffer from severe vandalism. This situation would however be monitored. It was also confirmed that the contractor might be entitled to a compensation payment as a result of reducing the scope of the contract. The contractor would also be entitled to claim for “one off” redundancy payments. These were one-off costs, each having been considered individually and had not therefore been included in the savings figures. Any redeployment issues would be for individual contractors to address.
After discussion, the Committee:-
i. APPROVED the savings proposals for 2012/13 as detailed in the report;
ii. APPROVED that officers continue to pursue the introduction of Highland
Comfort Schemes as appropriate;
iii. NOTED that this had the potential to generate further savings; and
iv. AGREED to investigate the possibility of selling standard keys to groups
such as lorry drivers to allow access to public conveniences when they were
12. Asset Management - Structural Road Maintenance Whole Life Cost Evaluation
There had been circulated Report No TEC-08-12 (28kb pdf) dated 6 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which invited Members to approve a proposal to realign the current structural maintenance budget to reflect the findings of the Whole Life Cost Analysis Model provided by the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS).
During a summary of the report, it was explained that The Whole Life Cost Evaluation Model had been used to establish how to achieve best value in two main activities: road surface dressing and resurfacing. There were large cost differences associated with these processes. It was proposed that the best life cycle results, within current budgets, would be achieved by transferring £1.5m from the structural maintenance budget (resurfacing) to surface dressing activities. Information was presented in relation to various options for spending on surfacing and surface dressing and, in particular, it was confirmed that detailed consideration had been given to the difference in spending profiles on urban and rural roads. The model predicted that best value would be achieved if the Council spent 79% of its roads budget on rural roads and 21% on urban roads.
Realigning the current structural maintenance budget nonetheless required the Council to accept that some of the roads that currently needed resurfacing could not be done. The percentage of the network where maintenance operations were presently required could only be reduced to 8% at best, even with a budget which would maintain the same spending power as at present. To achieve this, a year by year inflation increase in line with construction inflation would be required.
During discussion, Members expressed their concern at the very poor condition of Highland roads and at the inadequate future spending power that the Council would have to address this situation. Successive Councils, in better financial times, had not made the necessary investment in roads and future generations would pay the price. The roads budget was insufficient to cover the costs of current road repairs and this situation had not been prioritised.
Further concerns were voiced regarding the need to ensure better value with regard to surface dressing so as to avoid the need for yet more repairs within months of work taking place. In this connection, there had also been concerns regarding timing of work with that of utility companies and it was understood that meetings should be held to avoid the need for successive road excavations. A comment was also made that Stratherrick Road should be considered a priority for resurfacing given its current condition as this was very dangerous for cyclists.
Responding to these and other concerns, it was confirmed that Stratherrick Road was now in need of resurfacing and would be considered with all other roads on a priority basis. However, the Council would only be able to deal with the very worst roads, not all of them. It was explained that a budget increase of approximately £7 million per year would be necessary just to maintain the status quo without making any improvements. Regarding the cost of getting Highland roads up to standard, it was estimated that this would currently cost approximately £161M. Further, irrespective of the proposed transfer of funds, the Council would not be able to attend to all of its roads in the next 20 years. In terms of surface dressing, it was accepted that this process was prone to a wide range of impairments. Dialogue on this had taken place with the relevant materials laboratory and the Council’s inspection regime had been increased.
After discussion, the Committee:-
i. APPROVED the proposal to transfer £1.5m from the structural maintenance
budget (re-surfacing) to surface dressing commencing in 2012/13;
ii. APPROVED an increase in the proportion of the combined resurfacing and
surface dressing budget which was spent on urban roads, from 6% to 21%;
iii. NOTED that the predictive models would be re-run annually with the results
reported to the Transport, Environmental and Community Services
13. Working Group – Winter Maintenance Service and Cyclic/Drainage Maintenance
There had been circulated Report No TEC-09-12 (19kb pdf) dated 6 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which invited Members to approve the formation of a short life cross party Working Group to review the winter maintenance service and cyclic/drainage maintenance.
During a summary of the report, it was explained that over the past 2 years there had been a significant increase in the requirement for winter maintenance and, as a result, the level of resources which would normally have carried out cyclic/drainage maintenance had not been available. Budgets for winter maintenance in 2009/10 and 2010/11 had been overspent by £2.711m and £2.379m respectively. An informal briefing had been held for Members and a suggestion had been made that a cross party Working Group be established to look at the relevant issues. The proposed remit of the Working Group was highlighted.
During discussion, Members asked that the remit be expanded to include options for improving the level of winter maintenance on pedestrian routes to schools and gritting around schools.
The Committee AGREED:-
i. the formation of a short life cross party Working Group, comprising 15
Members based on the political balance of the Council, to review the winter
maintenance service and cyclic/drainage maintenance; and
ii. that the remit be expanded to include options for improving the level of
winter maintenance on pedestrian routes to schools and gritting around
14. Roadex Project 1998-2012 - Update
There had been circulated Report No TEC-10-12 (54kb pdf) dated 10 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which informed members that the current ROADEX project would end in June 2012, although its legacy would be on-going in terms of the technical knowledge network that had been built, the techniques learnt and savings that flowed from these. The report provided an update on project progress and the early planning for the project’s closing international seminar to be held in Inverness in May 2012.
During a summary of the report, it was explained that ROADEX, a technical co-operation across northern Europe sharing road related information and research, had started in 1998. This arrangement had been extended a further three times.
The present project, entitled “ROADEX Implementing Accessibility”, had commenced in 2009 and would conclude in 2012.
The ROADEX Steering Committee planned to hold a closing seminar at which the outputs from the present project would be presented by the partners and experts involved.
During discussion, Members welcomed the work of ROADEX, particularly work carried out in relation to roads on peat. Additionally, in relation to tyre pressure control, a further request was made to pursue funding from the Strategic Timber Fund and contributions from timber companies for the repair of roads damaged as a result of timber extraction.
i. NOTED the progress being made by the ROADEX project;
ii. NOTED the information published in the ROADEX calendar for 2012;
iii. NOTED that the closing international seminar and steering committee
meeting would be held in Inverness during May 2012; and
iv. AGREED to continue to pursue increases in funding from the Strategic
Timber Fund and contributions from timber companies to fund the repair of
roads damaged as a result of timber extraction.
15. Rail 2014 – Public Consultation
There had been circulated Report No TEC-11-12 (71kb pdf) dated 10 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which invited Members to approve the Council’s response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on investment in Rail Passenger Services and Rail Infrastructure beyond 2014 on which comments had been sought by 20 February.
During a summary of the report, it was explained that responses to the consultation paper would inform Transport Scotland’s decisions on how they would specify and fund train services and infrastructure in the future Scottish railway network. The proposed Council response had confirmed that rail services represented key building blocks for the Highland economy and it was essential that the existing rail facilities provided in the Highlands should not be diminished. The response suggested that additional opportunities should be built in to an investment programme to improve rail services and thus enhance and bolster the Highland economy.
A separate covering letter in support of the Council’s response would also highlight key areas where the Council considered investment should be focussed, namely:- the Highland Main Line – improving quality of the service and reducing the journey time; cross border services - retaining the quality of the rolling stock; sleepers – retaining the service and improving with new rolling stock; fares – rationalising fares packages; rural lines – upgrading with new rolling stock and marketing to encourage greater use; freight – investing in freight terminals to remove HGVs from the road network; model change – improving linkages with buses, ferries air services and cycling and walking facilities. he Council also wished to ensure that there would be a concessionary fare for blind people and companions.
During discussion, Members asked that a number of additional points be included in the response as follows:-
- it was hoped that investment would increase patronage to rail aided by improvements to comfort and frequency of service provision;
- quality was an important consideration in relation to the upgrading of the Highland Main Line and further comments should be included to refer to improved journey times and quality of the rolling stock replacement and the infrastructure – this could be assisted by using tilting trains to reduce journey times and in terms of rolling stock replacement;
- the possibility of re-opening up the Glenfarg line would allow a journey time of 2 hours 20 mins to Edinburgh if it operated with tilting trains;
- rural lines were underutilised and the quality of rolling stock was not very good. In this connection, journeys on the Jacobite steam train were being sold on a heritage basis and the possibility of other bespoke seasonal franchises, outwith the ScotRail franchise, should also be explored to support tourism. Serious consideration should be given to reinstating dining and observation cars both west and north of Inverness;
- regarding the maintenance of stations, concerns were expressed that only one organisation was in charge of this area of work and, as a result, a monopoly situation had been created. A better and wider use of railway stations would be supported, such as Fort William station which currently incorporated a café and a bookstore;
- the Council should press for the electrification of the Highland Main Line to be done as soon as possible and it was particularly appropriate in that all the electricity generated in the Highlands was by sustainable means;
- it was important to emphasise the need for increased wi-fi accessibility and mobile communications particularly on long distance trains and those linking Scottish cities. However, the need to provide “quiet” coaches as well was recognised;
- the response should make reference to cyclists who were also commuters using rail services and the need to invest in better and more facilities to enable them to leave bikes at stations;
- from a tourism perspective, cycling attracted many long distance travellers who would also use rail travel, e.g. John O’ Groats to Land’s End. Some cyclists had been very disappointed at the insufficient capacity on trains and the response should urge for further adaptations to be made to accommodate bicycles on trains;
- in relation to fares, a comment should be included to indicate the need for fares to be rationalised with a proper structure in place;
- it was important to ensure that concessionary fares were available not only for blind people but also travel companions. In this regard this section of the response could be expanded to suggest concessionary fares should be available for all people with a disability who need a travelling companion. Reference should also be made in the procurement section of the response that an equality impact assessment should be carried out prior to any future franchise contract being concluded. Disability groups should be contacted to ensure that the Council’s response reflected their needs;
- with regard to freight, the need for new terminals was supported but there was also a need for longer and more economic freight trains with longer passing loops. A request should also be made for the Freight Facilities Grant to be reinstated;
- the response should include specific reference to the need to protect and improve the sleeper service. The sleeper booking service was variable and not promoted fully; and
- it was understood that funding in the region of £130m was available to improve services, half of which was for improvements in rolling stock and the other half to address journey times and to reduce delays. Specific instances of delays should be highlighted in the response. Delays could also be minimised if Network Rail ensured that dangerous trees along rail lines were removed.
It was confirmed that the issues raised would be included into the Council’s response and forwarded to HITRANS for their information.
After discussion, the Committee APPROVED the Council’s response as detailed in Appendix A to the report, subject to the inclusion of comments made during debate.
16. Roll-out of Alternate Weekly Collections - Update
There had been circulated Report No TEC-12-12 (102kb pdf) dated 10 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which updated Members on progress with the roll-out of Alternate Weekly Collections (AWC) and highlighted the processes and procedures that had been put in place to implement this change to service delivery.
During a summary of the report, the Committee was reminded that it had approved the phased roll-out of Alternate Weekly Collections throughout the Highlands in September 2010. This programme had been revised in August 2011 and was now on target for completion in July 2012. Details of where the new service was now operational and the areas still to come on stream had been provided.
It was explained that the introduction of the service involved a major change in the way that the waste collection service was delivered and that significant work had been undertaken within a very tight timeframe. The part played by the public and businesses who had engaged with these changes was acknowledged and was evidenced by the high quality of the mixed recyclate.
In response to questions from Members, it was clarified that:-
- it was sometimes difficult for the Council to compete with commercial waste collectors as the Council had no flexibility to negotiate on prices charged for their collection services;
- an information leaflet would be delivered to all households, as part of the roll-out, detailing collection days for each type of bin and suggestions for the use of the blue box which was replacing the blue bin;
- the problem of bin storage in some urban flatted developments was ongoing;
- in Skye a higher percentage of businesses used the Council’s waste collection services as there were fewer commercial providers, compared to Inverness;
- kerbside recycling vehicles were being not being replaced when they reached the end of their operational life as they could no longer be used once the blue bins had been introduced;
- material collected in blue bins would go to a recycling facility to be sorted;
- as before, large families could apply for a second bin and people with specific conditions affecting mobility could apply for a ‘backdoor’ collection; and
- although brown bins had originally been intended to collect food in addition to garden waste, it had nevertheless proved surprising how much garden waste was still collected between November and March.
The Committee NOTED the progressive and inclusive approach to the roll-out of Alternate Weekly Collections to date and AGREED to endorse this approach to future areas.
17. Evidence on the Scottish Government’s Policy on Zero Waste to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environmental Committee
There had been circulated Report No TEC-13-12 (29kb pdf) dated 6 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which invited Members to approve the Council’s submission to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environmental Committee in response to its call for evidence on the Scottish Government’s policy statement on the Zero Waste regulations which was published on 14 October 2011.
During a summary of the report, it was confirmed that the Council had taken a full part in all of the consultations to the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste plan, policy and draft regulations. The terms of the proposed submission were consistent with the terms of previous submissions made by the Council.
During discussion, Members queried why this and other earlier reports stated that there were no climate change implications arising from the report. In response, it was explained that, although there were significant and far-reaching climate change implications of the generality of Zero Waste policies, there were no climate change implications as a direct result of the content of the report which was simply a response to the Zero Waste Regulations as detailed.
Members also queried the use of the expression ‘to buttress the carrot approach’ in the section entitled ‘Enforcement Powers and Behavioural Change’, and suggested that a stronger emphasis should be placed on the importance of fixed penalty revenue being retained in Highland.
The Committee APPROVED the Council’s submission to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environmental Committee in response to its call for evidence on the Scottish Government’s policy statement on Zero Waste, as detailed in the report, subject to a stronger emphasis being paced on the need for revenue raised from fixed penalties being retained in Highland.
18. Taxi Licensing
Declaration of Interest
Mr N Donald declared a financial interest in this item on the basis of being a Taxi owner/driver and left the room.
There had been circulated Report No TEC-14-12 (37kb pdf) dated 19 December 2011 by the Assistant Chief Executive which invited the Committee to agree the recommendation of the Civic Government Licensing Working Group in relation to the policy regarding taxi driver’s knowledge tests.
It was explained that the Inverness Taxi Association had expressed concern at the numbers of taxi drivers from other areas coming into Inverness to ply for hire. A request had been made for consideration to be given to restricting a driver to the area in which they had passed the knowledge test and, if possible, implemented.
The report detailed proposals considered by the Civic Government Licensing Working Group to extend the knowledge test, including: how the proposals might work in relation to the locations by which licenses were presently administered; enforcement and arrangements for existing taxi drivers. The Working Group had recommended that some amendments be made to the current knowledge tests to address some of the concerns raised, as follows:
i. The pass mark for each section be increased from 75% to 85%
ii. A maximum of 3 attempts be permitted i.e. first test plus two re-sits.
In relation to wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV), the Working Group had requested further details in relation to the introduction of a policy which would require any new applicants for a taxi licence to provide a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. As this would involve a major change to the Council’s policy in relation to taxi licensing, the Working Group intended to arrange a meeting with taxi representatives from all areas and local disability access groups to seek their views on the proposals.
The Committee AGREED the recommendation from the Working Group that:-
i. the pass mark for each section of the taxi knowledge test be increased from
75% to 85% from 1 March 2012;
ii. a maximum of 3 attempts be permitted i.e. first test plus two re-sits,
thereafter the application should be referred to the Highland Licensing
Committee, again from 1 March 2012; and
iii. the Civic Government Licensing Working Group meet with taxi
representatives Highland wide and local disability access groups to ascertain
their view on the proposed changes to Council policy in relation to
wheelchair accessible vehicles.
Declaration of Interest
Mr J McGillivray declared a non-financial interest in item 19 ii on the grounds of being the Chairman of the Embo Trust Steering Committee but, having applied the test applied in Paragraphs 5.2 and 5.3 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, concluded that his interest did not preclude his involvement in discussion.
The Committee NOTED or APPROVED, as appropriate, the following Minutes:-
i. Fishery Harbours Management Board of 15 November 2011 (42kb pdf);
ii. Resource Monitoring Working Group of 17 November 2011 (46kb pdf); and
iii. Civic Government Licensing Working Group of 7 December 2011 (25kb pdf).
20. Exclusion of the Public
The Committee RESOLVED that the following item should be discussed in public.
21. Award of Public Transport Contract
In view of the decision of the Transport, Environmental and Community Services Committee on 22 September 2011 being based on incorrect information, the Committee AGREED to suspend Standing Order 20 to enable the matter to be considered.
There had been circulated to Members only Report No TEC/15/2012 dated 6 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which invited Members to agree to homologate the decision by the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Convener, to award a temporary transport contract from 1 January to 29 February 2012 and to approve the award of the contract until September 2012 at which time it would be included in the review of evening services, as previously agreed by the Committee.
During a summary of the report, it was explained that, at their meeting held on 22 September 2011, the TECS Committee had approved the award of the public transport contracts which would run from January 2012 to December 2016. At this time it was agreed not to award a contract for the Inverness Kinmylies evening service on account that the figures supplied by Stagecoach indicated that the service could be run on a commercial basis. Since this time, it had emerged that the figures Stagecoach had provided in relation to this service related to the whole route and not just the contracted section.
In discussion, officers were thanked for their co-operation in addressing this matter once the discrepancy in the figures had become apparent. In response to a question, it was confirmed that no other bus operators had been contacted to retender for the running of the Kinmylies evening service as, initially, it had been expected to operate commercially. However, the review of evening bus services due to be reported back to Committee in September 2012 would address this issue.
The withdrawal of bus services in other part of Inverness were also raised, the Culloden and Lochardil evening bus services being highlighted in particular. In relation to the Lochardil service, it was hoped that the bus service might be reinstated in future, through planning gain but it was pointed out that it had previously been commercially operated.
i. AGREED to homologate the decision taken by the Chief Executive, in
consultation with the Convener, to award a temporary contract for the
Kinmylies evening bus service from 1 January to 29 February 2012;
ii. APPROVED the award of contract for the Kinmylies evening bus service
until 30 September 2012; and
iii. AGREED to include this route in the review of evening services, as agreed
on 22 September 2011, with a report on the outcome to be presented to
a future meeting of the Committee.
22. Exclusion of the Public
The Committee RESOLVED that, under Section 50A(4) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item on the grounds that it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in of paragraphs 6 and 9 of Part 1 of Schedule 7A of the Act.
23. Exception to Contract Standing Orders
There had been circulated to Members only Report No TEC/16/2012 dated 6 January 2012 by the Director of Transport, Environmental and Community Services which invited the Committee to homologate the award a contract for the upgrade to the weighbridge systems and software occasioned by the Corporate ICT Refresh.
During a summary of the report it was confirmed that the Avery weighbridge systems at the Seater and Granish landfill sites, the waste transfer station at Portee and the linked master computer all required to be upgraded by Avery to enable compatibility with the Corporate ICT refresh. As the systems and software were provided by Avery, only Avery could undertake the upgrade work. This, together with the emergency nature of the works were agreed by the Director of Finance to meet the exceptions detailed in Section 2(iii) and (iv) of the Council’s Contract Standing Orders.
The Committee APPROVED the recommendations to homologate the award the contract as detailed in the report.
The meeting ended at 4.00 p.m.