Meetings and minutes

COVID-19: Emergency governance

On 17 March 2020 in light of the current COVID-19 outbreak, meetings of the Council and its committees were suspended, subject to regular review, until 25 June 2020. Subsequently, it was agreed that strategic committees and regulatory meetings would be scheduled at any point during this period where there was an urgent business requirement.

During this period, the Council's Scheme of Delegation to Officers provides for the Chief Executive to exercise the Council's powers in emergency situations, in consultation with appropriate Officials and/or Members. In order to take this forward, a Member Gold Covid-19 Group has been established, comprising the Chief Executive, Convener, the Leaders of the Administration Groups and the Official Opposition Group, the Budget Leader and attended by the ECO for Performance and Governance.

This meeting takes place twice weekly, and sometimes more frequently, depending on the issues requiring discussion. 

The first meeting of the Member Gold Group took place on 19 March 2020.

In the interests of transparency, a decision log recording those matters determined under the emergency governance arrangements is published on the Council's website.

A formal report, setting out all of the decisions taken under emergency governance arrangements will be brought to the meeting of the Full Council on 25 June 2020 for homologation.

Decisions Log

9 June 2020

  • Agreed to resume non domestic rates billing on 12 June 2020, in line with other Scottish local authorities, ensuring that all Covid-related exemptions and supports were in place and clearly communicated.
  • Agreed to the re-opening of Public Conveniences in consultation with Local Members.
  • Agreed at June Council Members should be asked to approve the resumption of Council approved policies and services to pre-Covid arrangements, in line with the Scottish Government’s phasing of lockdown relaxation.

2 June 2020

  • Agreed to open Drummond School as a Keeping In Touch hub to allow young people who required specialist provision to receive additional support.
  • Agreed that, with the establishment of the Recovery Board, Members GOLD Covid 19 meeting reduce from two to one per week

28 May 2020

  • No decisions requiring derogation/policy variations

26 May 2020

  • Agreed to open recycling centres where there was sufficient staffing and continue to work to identify staffing solutions to enable as many as possible to re-open.
  • Agreed that the appointment of the Depute Leader to the role of Chair of the newly established Recovery Board, as set out in the Terms of Reference, be formally recorded in the minute. 
  • Agreed that live streaming of the Resources Committee meeting to be made available to the media if possible and eventually to the general public for all previously webcast Council and Committee meetings, once any glitches have been addressed.

21 May 2020

  • No decisions requiring derogation/policy variations

19 May 2020

  • Agreed that the Recovery Board be comprised of 11 Members selected on the basis of political balance. In addition there would be 1 Trade Union Representative with non-voting rights, rotated between the Trade Unions.

14 May 2020

  • Due to staff shortages it was agreed, on a majority basis, to the temporary lift of the partial ban on weed control products containing glyphosate to undertake limited preventative maintenance:- Not in play areas; Its use is to be preventative only – i.e. to avoid infrastructure damage; Ensuring proper attention to H&S requirements in its application; and as part of a limited grass cutting service only (not business as usual).
  • Agreed to schedule the Corporate Resources Committee on 3 June 2020.

12 May 2020

  • Agreed that an announcement, detailing Covid-19 Gold decisions reached to date, would be circulated in the name of the Convenor with weekly details following on thereafter by officers. 

7 May 2020

  • Meetings of SPAC and NPAC to be arranged virtually as soon as possible, subject to effective technology being in place.  Revised Interim Procedures for Planning Application Committees during the COVID19 Pandemic to be reviewed regularly, the first review being the end of June 2020.
  • To make a bid to the new Active Travel Fund, subject to engagement with Inverness Members, other Wards and key stakeholders.

5 May 2020

  • Agreed to publish all decisions made under Emergency Procedures.
  • Agreement reached with the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers in relation to payments to supply teachers.

30 April 2020

  • Limited grass cutting to resume in Highland with adherence to physical distancing.

28 April 2020

  • Proceed with a virtual meeting of the Planning Review Board on 5 May 2020 and that it be open to all 9 Members.

23 April 2020

  • No decisions requiring derogation/policy variations

21 April 2020

  • ECO Education - in place of the shortened Appointments Panel, that the Chief Executive and the Chairman of Education would make the appointment on the basis that it would be for a fixed term only.
  • Decision to procure the software solution ‘Helping Hands’ promoted by the Govt to record and track requests for help from vulnerable people.   The cost is £30k. 
  • The Council would meet the costs of key worker childcare if the Government did not proviide additional funding.
  • To establish a Recovery Board, which would report to Council.

15 April 2020

  • Committee and Council meetings to go ahead in May and June, if there was a business requirement.  Otherwise, they should be postponed until the end of June, subject to regular review by Strategic Chairs and ECOs.  A special Council would be held on 25 June.

13 April 2020

  • Confirm the Scheme of Delegation be amended to allow officers to determine applications, without substantial objections, in consultation with the Chairman of the North and South PAC, as appropriate.
  • An Appointments Panel be formed, albeit on a reduced scale, for the Interim Chief Officer Education.
  • Members GOLD Covid 19 Meetings be held, with effect from the following week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Member Briefings take place on Wednesdays, NOTING Emergency Members GOLD Covid 19 Meetings could be called at short notice.

10 April 2020

  • No decisions requiring derogation/policy variations

8 April 2020

  • Subject to discussion with the Conservative and Unionist Party Group Leader, the Aird and Loch Ness By Election be deferred and held on 5 November 2020.
  • Car parks at all major tourist attractions be closed indefinitely unless there was a particular local reason why it should remain open.
  • All Secondary Schools to move the learning of our young people in the Senior Phase on, to include blocks of learning.
  • To support the decision to employ 4 additional Children Services Social Workers.

6 April 2020

  • Suspend Scheme of Delegation so Planning Officers could make decisions on more planning applications, in consultation with the Chairs of the North and South Planning Applications Committee. Any planning applications that received substantial objections would not be processed. This suspension of the Scheme of Delegation would have a finite clause included so the position could be re-assessed at the end of June 2020.
  • In relation to the Planning Review Body, this could not be delegated to Officers so, as permitted in the regulations, agreed to reduce its size to 3 Members and holding meetings using Skype.
  • Registration of Deaths – to move from 5 to 7day registration.
  • Agreed that the Helpline would remain open on Good Friday and Easter Monday.

3 April 2020

  • No decisions requiring derogation/policy variations

30 March 2020

  • Postpone the issue of Business Rates bills.
  • Issue Small Business Grants immediately.

27 March 2020

  • Consider moving to a 3-weekly bin collection in some parts of Highland, subject to an options appraisal, and with a communication strategy in place in advance.

25 March 2020

  • Additional Deaths Coordinating group tasked to identify additional mortuary capacity within Highland.
  • Staff who had been PVG checked could crossover categories given the greater requirement to provide adult social care.
  • Council Tax collection would go ahead on 1 April but that, in the meantime, no recovery letters would be issued.
  • Agreed to lend support whereby self-catering providers would be eligible for the same level of compensation from Business Grants.

23 March 2020

  • Both meetings of the Licensing Board and Committee be temporarily suspended and that Revised Guidelines would be placed on the Council’s website.
  • Public Transport providers – honouring existing contracts as directed by the Scottish Government and looking to redeploy services to support the emergency response.
  • Parking enforcement – cease all activity for the current time.
  • Public access to all Council buildings including closing service points will cease.  Registration by appointment only and where possible substituted  with a phone service to reduce F2F. Newly established Emergency Centres and childcare hubs are exempted.
  • Suspension of a range of waste services to focus on statutory kerb side collections and trades collections.  Recycling Centres to remain open were staffing numbers allow.  Cease new requests for bulky uplifts; temporarily cease garden waste and do not send out new bills until later in the year.  Offer a discount for renewals.
  • Reductions in street cleaning to move staff into the waste team; and approach commercial providers to fill gaps where needed.
  • Suspend some burials activities – suspend the pre-sale of lairs and preparation of foundations for headstones.  Likelihood that numbers attending the crematorium will be limited over the course of the week.

20 March 2020

  • No decisions requiring derogations/policy variations.

19 March 2020

  • Payment of staff – suspension of usual conditions regarding caring leave to support people working from home.
  • Fostering Placements: increasing the number of young people who could be placed with each Foster Carer.
  • Procurement/Contract Standing Orders: where needed, suspension of Contract Standing Orders in response to supply challenges.
  • Housing Allocation: prioritisation of people discharged from hospital to assist with reducing delayed discharge and to support vulnerable people.
  • Remove higher charges at weekends for burials.
  • Responding to non-urgent enquiries/complaints to be discontinued during this period. National guidance to be sought on dealing with Freedom of Information requests.
  • Death registration – in light of concerns about availability of Registrars, national advice to be sought, including changes to policy in relation to the non-prioritisation of weddings.
  • No recovery action to be taken on unpaid council tax during this period.