Agendas, reports and minutes

Highland Council

Date: Thursday, 4 September 2014

Minutes: Read the Minutes


Minutes of Meeting of the Highland Councilheld in the Council Chamber, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on Thursday, 4 September 2014at 10.35 am.

1.  Calling of the Roll and Apologies for Absence
A’ Gairm a’ Chlàir agus Leisgeulan


Dr D Alston, Mr R Balfour, Mrs J Barclay, Mr A Baxter, Mr D Bremner, Mr I Brown, Mrs I Campbell, Miss J Campbell, Mrs H Carmichael, Mr A Christie, Mr B Clark, Dr I Cockburn, Mrs G Coghill, Mr J Crawford, Mrs M Davidson, Mr N Donald, Ms J Douglas, Mr A Duffy, Mr D Fallows, Mr G Farlow, Mr B Fernie, Mr M Finlayson, Mr J Ford, Mr C Fraser, Mr L Fraser, Mr H Fraser, Mr B Gormley, Mr K Gowans, Mr A Graham, Mr J Gray, Mr M Green, Mr R Greene, Mr A Henderson, Mr D Hendry, Mr D Kerr, Mr R Laird, Mr B Lobban, Mr C Macaulay, Mrs L MacDonald, Mr N MacDonald, Mr J McGillivray, Mrs D Mackay, Mr D Mackay, Mr W MacKay, Mr G MacKenzie, Mr A Mackinnon, Ms A MacLean, Mr T MacLennan, Mr K MacLeod, Mrs B McAllister, Mrs I McCallum, Mr D Millar, Ms L Munro, Mr B Murphy, Mrs M Paterson, Mr G Phillips, Mr T Prag, Mr M Rattray, Mr I Renwick, Mr G Rimell, Mrs F Robertson, Mr J Rosie, Ms G Ross, Mr G Ross, Mr R Saxon, Dr A Sinclair, Mrs G Sinclair, Mrs J Slater, Ms M Smith, Ms K Stephen, Mr J Stone, Mr B Thompson, Mrs C Wilson, Mr H Wood

In Attendance:

Chief Executive
Depute Chief Executive/Director of Corporate Development
Director of Education, Culture and Sport
Director of Development & Infrastructure
Director of Care and Learning
Director of Finance
Director of Community Services
Inverness City Manager

Mr J Gray in the Chair

Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Mrs C Caddick, Mr J Gordon, Mr H Morrison, Mr F Parr, Mr M Reiss and Mr A Rhind.


Prior to the commencement of the formal business, and on behalf of the Council, the Convener paid tribute to both Ms Frances Gair and Mr Laurence Young who had recently passed away and extended sympathy to their families.

Thereafter, the Convener, along with other Members of the Council, thanked Mr Hugh Fraser, Director of Education, Culture and Sport, for his long and outstanding service to the Council and wished him well in his retirement.

It was also noted that Ainya Taylor’s term as Youth Convener had now come to an end and this role would now be undertaken by Shaun Finlayson.

The Council also extended congratulations to the Commonwealth Games medallists and volunteers from the Highlands.

Finally, it was noted that the World Sheep Dog Trials were taking place in Easter Ross and were expected to be very successful.

At this point in the meeting, it was AGREED that Item 13 on the agenda - Tain Common Good Fund: Alexandra Bridge Refurbishment – should be withdrawn from the business of the meeting on the basis that a further report on this issue would be submitted to the Resources Committee meeting in November.

2.  Declarations of Interest
Foillseachaidhean Com-pàirt

The Council NOTED the following declarations of interest:-

Item 9 – Mr A Christie, Mrs D MacKay, Mrs A Maclean and Mr I Renwick (all non-financial)
Item 10 – Mr G Farlow (non-financial)
Item 18 – Mr A Baxter (financial)

3.  Recess Powers
Cumhachdan Fosaidh

It was NOTED that the recess powers granted by the Council at the meeting on 26 June 2014 had not required to be exercised.

4.  Confirmation of Minutes
Daingneachadh a’ Gheàrr-chunntais

There had been submitted for confirmation as a correct record the Minute of Meeting of the Council held on 26 June 2014 as contained in the Volume which had been circulated separately which was APPROVED.

5.  Minutes of Meetings of Committees
Geàrr-chunntasan Choinneamhan Chomataidhean

There had been submitted for confirmation as correct records, for information as regards delegated business and for approval as appropriate, the Minutes of Meetings of Committees contained in Volume circulated separately as undernoted:-

Skye, Ross & Cromarty Area Committee, 6 August
Gaelic Implementation Group, 14 August
Pensions Committee, 14 August
Planning, Development & Infrastructure Committee, 20 August
Community Services Committee, 21 August
Lochaber Area Committee, 26 August
Resources Committee, 27 August
Education, Children & Adult Services Committee, 28 August
City of Inverness Area Committee, 2 September

The Minutes, having been moved and seconded were, except as undernoted, APPROVED matters arising having been dealt with as follows:–

Planning, Development & Infrastructure Committee, 20 August

Item 4: Page 138: Presentation by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) on the Electricity Grid in Highland

It was AGREED that the Minute should be amended to confirm that Mr R Laird had left the room during discussion of this item.

*Starred Item* Item 16: Page 330: The Land of Scotland and the Common Good – Report of the Land Reform Review Group

It was AGREED that a Members’ Workshop be set up in November 2014, with Community Land Scotland partners, to consider in more detail the recommendations of the Land Reform Review Group and how the Council could contribute most effectively going forward.

Community Services Committee, 21 August

Item 6ii: Page 338: Budget Monitoring 2014/15

It was AGREED that the Minute should be amended to confirm that the combined waste arisings management pressure for 2014/15 was £0.645m and, for clarification, the combined pressure on the budget for 2013/14 and 2014/15 amounted to £1.510m for waste arisings.

Resources Committee, 27 August 2014

*Starred Item* Item 25: Page 36: Carbon CLEVER Community Grant Fund

It was AGREED that in future applications under £10k should be submitted to Area Committees for approval.

It was also AGREED at the meeting that a list of the approved applications should be submitted to the Resources Committee on a quarterly basis so that the Committee could take an overview of how the funds were being committed. This would also allow some of the successful submissions to be published on the Council Website.

It was further AGREED that a correction should be made to the Minute in that reference should have been made to review of the ‘Carbon CLEVER Community Grant Fund’ and not the ‘Community Challenge Fund’ as had been stated.

Item 10: Page 23: Capital Discretionary Fund Applications

The Council NOTED an update from the Chair of the Community Services Committee on the current position in relation to the funding of and progress with refurbishment of War Memorials in the Highlands on the basis that an email with this information would be sent to all Members as soon as possible.

Private Items

It was AGREED that the detail of discussion on the private items (including details of voting records) should be removed from the Minute.

6.  Customer Services Board
Bòrd Sheirbheisean Luchd-ceannaich

There had been circulated Minutes of the Meetings of the Customer Services Board held on 25 June and 19 August 2014 which were NOTED.

7.  Community Challenge Fund Applications Panel
Pannal Iarrtasan airson na Maoin Dùbhlain Coimhearsnachd

There had been circulated Minute of the Meeting of the Community Challenge Fund Applications Panel held on 27 August 2014 which was APPROVED.

8.  Membership of Committees, etc
Ballrachd air Comataidhean, msaa

The Council AGREED the following change to membership of Committees –

South Planning Applications Committee – Ward 12 (Substitute) - Mr B Thompson

9.  Corporate Performance Report 2013/14 – ‘Working Together for the Highlands'
Aithisg Dèanadais Bhliadhnail – ‘Ag Obrachadh Còmhla airson na

Declarations of Interest

The undernoted Members all declared non-financial interests in this item but, having applied the test outlined in Paragraphs 5.2 and 5.3 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, concluded that their interests did not preclude their involvement in the discussion –

Mr A Christie – General Manager of Inverness, Badenoch & Strathspey Citizens’ Advice Bureau
Mrs D MacKay - Director of East Sutherland Citizens’ Advice Bureau
Mrs A Maclean - Director of Ross and Cromarty Citizens’ Advice Bureau
Mr I Renwick - Director of Portree Citizens’ Advice Bureau

There had been circulated Report No. HC/17/14 dated 13 August 2014 by the Chief Executive which provided an assessment of Council performance against the Corporate Plan and the Council’s Programme, ‘Working Together for the Highlands’.

During a summary of the report, it was confirmed that in total there were 139 commitments and performance for each of these commitments had been highlighted within Appendix 1. In addition, information had been provided in relation to those commitments which had been completed, were progressing well, on target or being maintained, as well as those with mixed performance. It was also confirmed that there were no commitments which had not been met.

During discussion, Members raised the following issues:-  

  • it was recognised that the performance report represented work in progress with 133 of the 139 commitments either having been completed, progressing well or performance maintained;
  • inward investment opportunities had been maximised and much progress had been made in working with the third sector, particularly in areas such as homelessness and youth engagement;
  • staff had faced huge challenges and had made substantial achievements evidenced by the customer satisfaction rating of 87.9% of which the Council should be justifiably proud;
  • there was a need for renewed focus and ideas to increase breastfeeding beyond the national average rates;
  • the Council was performing well on some elements such as the work on the living wage, the small business bonus scheme and preventative spend.  However, it was less clear what progress was being made with adult services and an audit of the funding directed to the NHS was now necessary together with fresh thinking and new approaches to address joint working;
  • in regard to Council’s Programme, there was a need for greater emphasis on some areas, such as land reform and the provision of physical education for school pupils. There was also a need for a wider focus on issues such as social justice and the outcomes from the CoSLA Consultation on ‘Strengthening Local Democracy’ in order to raise ambitions with the aim of making a real difference to people’s lives;
  • concerns had previously been raised about biomass energy in schools and a report was still awaited on how effective this had been;
  • the scope for renewed thinking and joint working would be addressed through the Change and Improvement Plan and this would tackle issues such as the national breastfeeding targets and delayed discharges from hospital. In addition, the Welfare Reform Working Group was actively looking at social justice issues, particularly the needs of the working poor;
  • significant progress had been made on building quality houses and within the Council’s approach to community engagement and there was now a need to consider how best to report this information;
  • proposals on the provision of allotments needed to be more innovative as waiting lists were over-subscribed and opportunities to canvas levels of enthusiasm in terms of the use public green spaces for allotments should be seized;
  • in terms of the improvement projects for the A82, there was a need to include reference to the success of the A82 Improvement Partnership in securing £2m for the design works on the Loch Lomond sections;
  • there had been previous agreement for the extension of powers to Community Wardens to issue fines and this should now be acted on;
  • there were people in the Highlands still experiencing fuel poverty and this had to be addressed wherever possible;
  • the commitment to settling bills in a fair and efficient way was welcomed as this was particularly important to small and medium sized enterprises;
  • the closure of the Serco Contact Centre in Brora with the loss of 21 jobs had been distressing, particularly in the context of the loss of over 100 other jobs in the area within the past year, and it was critical for all agencies at a local and Scottish Government level to develop conditions and opportunities to support local businesses and local workforces;
  • the aspiration to increase by 3% the numbers of young people moving to education, training or employment was welcomed. However, this target obscured a number of inequalities (with particular reference being made to young girls leaving school to train for poorly paid vocations) and priority should be given to encouraging a higher number of apprenticeships and wider choice of college courses in the area;
  • there was a need for a greater and continued focus on transport issues, including at the Berriedale Braes which was a lifeline road and warranted particular attention within the area; and
  • the whole Council had previously agreed the Programme and every Member now had a responsibility to ensure that the right measures were in place as what was measured was done and this was vitally important in terms of evidencing how the Council performed.


The Council NOTED the good progress being made with delivery of the Council’s Programme for the period from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014 and that the approach to Public Performance Reporting was under review, including the annual newspaper supplement.

The Council also NOTED that further reports on Statutory Performance Indicators and the Local Government Benchmarking Framework would be presented in October and December 2014 respectively.

10.  Carbon CLEVER Programme Plan and Update
Plana Prògraim is Fios Às Ùr air Carbon CLEVER

Declaration of Interest - Mr G Farlow declared a non-financial interest in this item on the grounds of being the Chair of Ullapool Community Trust and a Director of Culag Community Woodland Trust but, having applied the test outlined in Paragraphs 5.2 and 5.3 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, concluded that his interests did not preclude his involvement in the discussion.

There had been circulated Report No. HC/18/14 dated 21 August 2014 by the Head of Policy and Reform which provided an update on the Carbon CLEVER Programme Plan, in particular the chapter on Energy, and a number of Carbon CLEVER projects.

During a summary of the report, Members were reminded of the initiative to achieve the visionary target where the objective for a carbon neutral Inverness would reinforce the objective for a low carbon Highlands by 2025.  With particular reference to the Programme Plan chapter on Energy, it was confirmed that the key items included energy renovated, comfortable, and attractive buildings; increased renewable energy generation, including micro-generation; self-sufficient energy generation with minimal energy import and reliance on fossil fuels; renewable heating and infrastructure where appropriate; energy storage to reduce reliance on fossil fuels during periods of peak energy demand; affordable energy; energy and fuel security and an engagement strategy.

During discussion, Members welcomed the draft Programme Plan on Energy and raised the following issues:-  

  • the Council’s response to the demands of climate change were to mitigate its effects, to incorporate its response with existing priorities and remain aware of what made good community and business sense;
  • a range of programmes had been established by the Scottish and UK Governments and energy companies to address fuel poverty and a joined-up approach was now required. In this regard, it was suggested that a post should be funded from the Carbon Clever Fund to evaluate the different initiatives and to identify the work required to be done around fuel poverty;
  • it was queried whether the Land Use report to be presented to the next meeting would address the issue of onshore wind power;
  • the report had suggested that renewables would reverse population decline and this was a significant statement which needed further evidence;
  • it was queried how many employees were currently working at the Nigg shore base and how much public money had been invested;
  • the section of the report on “Where are we now?” which followed on from the Carbon Clever Conference appeared to be based on opinion rather than facts;
  • Caithness and Sutherland had welcomed the recent Meygen announcement for a tidal energy scheme in the Pentland Firth as a hugely significant project for the area;
  • the work being undertaken in schools to guide young people to become involved in these industries was also important for the area’s future;
  • in terms of the Housing Service’s contribution to Carbon Clever, it was noted that this included £8m of energy improvements for private sector housing over the next two years, investment of over £90m since 2007 in Local Authority housing stock improvements (a significant proportion of which had been in energy efficiency work) and a commitment to £40m additional  spend on Council houses over the next 2 years to install renewable heating systems;
  • it would be useful to consider the Western Isles Council’s approach to addressing fuel poverty;
  • an increasing frequency of bad weather events had resulted in remote communities being cut off from services and there was a need for a Forest Strategy to address tree felling which often contributed to rain water and debris flooding and blocking roads and culverts. In this connection, Members were urged to continue to contribute to the Forestry Commission consultation for harvesting and replanting;
  • there was a need to identify which initiatives were not working and to identify appropriate solutions. In particular, reference was made to permissions protocols being overly complicated;
  • the MIT Energy Initiative research had recently reported on pump storage units for renewable facilities which should be reflected in the plan;
  • it was queried how close the Housing Quality indicators were to Nordic insulation standards. In this regard, housing insulation needed to be site specific and responsive to a wide range of environmental factors;
  • it was understood that the Council had already made a commitment to fuel co-operatives and it was hoped that reference could be made to this in future; and
  • fuel poverty was an issue which was being tackled in a number of ways and it would be helpful to bring the various strands of this work together in a report to the next meeting in order to allow further consideration.


The Council NOTED that the final draft of the ‘Energy’ chapter would be subject to wider consultation with relevant groups.

It was also NOTED that a draft chapter on ‘Land Use and Resources’ would be presented to the next meeting on 30 October 2014 and that the final Carbon CLEVER Programme Plan would be launched at the second Carbon CLEVER Conference on 21 November 2014.

The Council AGREED that addressing fuel poverty was already part of the remit of the Carbon CLEVER Programme and that a report would be submitted to the next meeting outlining what was being achieved and future actions.

11.  Corporate Parenting
Pàrantachd Corporra

There had been circulated Report No. HC/19/14 dated 26 August 2014 by the Director of Care and Learning which set out the background and context to the corporate parenting role of the Highland Council and its Elected Members.

The report also formed an introduction to a Members’ Seminar which had been arranged for 13 November 2014 and which would take place with the support of some of Highland’s Looked After Children, ‘Who Cares? Scotland’ and Barnardos.

During a summary of the report, a definition of corporate parenting was outlined together with an explanation of the term “Looked After Children” which in terms of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 defined children under the supervision of the Council. Brief outlines were also provided on the negative perceptions of Looked After Children, the aims of the Looked After Children Improvement Group, legislative changes due to take effect from April 2015 through the Children & Young People’s Act 2014 to define corporate parenting and arrangements for a Members’ Seminar on 13 November 2014.

Thereafter, a DVD was shown of Caitlin Gibson, a young person cared for as a Looked After Child in Highland, performing her own song which described her experiences.

During discussion, Members paid tribute to Caitlin’s powerful testimony, welcomed the report and the upcoming Seminar and raised the following issues:-  

  • it was imperative that the Council promoted and acted on behalf of Looked After Children through a range of existing and new initiatives;
  • it was clear that young people wanted to engage with policy makers and it was a key activity of ‘For Highland Children’s 4’ that the Council would ensure and evidence that the voices of young people were influential in developing improvements to all services. The first step to realising this aspiration was to hold the Seminar on 13 November and a second step would be to establish a cross-party Looked After Children Champion’s Panel which it was hoped would meet shortly after the Seminar;
  • there were currently almost 500 Looked After Children in Highland which was too high a figure and it was essential to make changes to address this and, in particular, kinship care presented an opportunity to move this forward;
  • the report reminded Members of their roles and responsibilities as Corporate Parents and this was not just a legal obligation but also a moral responsibility.  The Council had a responsibility also to ensure that these children were not looked upon differently to other children;
  • it would be important to ensure that geography and rurality did not impact on affording children equal chances in life and the opportunity to revise the term “Corporate Parent” was welcomed;
  • the shift towards integrated services would facilitate awareness of a wider range of family and social considerations which could reduce the number of Looked After Children in Highland; and
  • the Council’s fostering and adoption team were meticulous in their efforts to place children in kinship care as placing children into Local Authority care was a last option. As such, the young person was always at the centre of these decisions.


The Council NOTED the issues raised in the report and the invitation to attend the Members’ Seminar which had been arranged for 13 November 2014.

12.  Highland Charities Trust: Update
Urras Charthannais na Gàidhealtachd

There had been circulated Joint Report No. HC/20/14 dated 25 August 2014 by the Depute Chief Executive/Director of Corporate Development and Director of Finance which detailed the progress of the project to re-organise a number of small charitable trusts, bequests and funds which were administered by the Council into a new Highland-wide Highland Charities Trust in order to ensure their efficient administration and compliance with the Charities Act and related Regulations.

In this regard, the report sought approval of the resolution as required by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) as part of this process.

During discussion, it was suggested that the option of registering Common Good Funds with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator should be explored.


The Council:-

1) NOTED that the Highland Charities Trust had now been set up and had charitable status;
2) NOTED that funds had been transferred from the trusts listed in Appendix 2 to the Highland Charities Trust;
3) NOTED that application had been made to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator for the winding up and removal of the small charitable trusts listed in Appendix 2 from the Register of Charities as they now had nil balances;
4) AGREED to delegate responsibility for the administration of the Highland Charities Trust to the Head of Policy and Reform;
5) AGREED to delegate to the Audit and Scrutiny Committee the approval of the audited annual accounts of the Highland Charities Trust; and
6) AGREED that the Highland Charities Trust would administer the funds received from the small charitable trusts listed in Appendix 2 in accordance with the re-organisation schemes which had been approved by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

It was also AGREED that the option of registering Common Good Funds with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator should be explored.

13.  Code of Corporate Governance 2014/15
Còd airson Riaghladh Corporra 2014/15

There had been circulated Report No. HC/22/14 dated 6 August 2014 by the Depute Chief Executive/Director of Corporate Development which provided an update on progress with delivering the actions agreed in the Local Code of Corporate Governance for 2013/14 and presented the proposed Code for 2014/15 for approval.


The Council NOTED the good progress on delivering the agreed actions in the 2013/14 Code of Corporate Governance and the Substantial Assurance provided by Internal Audit on the delivery of the 2013/14 Code.

The Council also APPROVED the 2014/15 Code of Corporate Governance as presented.

14.  Scheme of Delegation and Administration to Strategic Committees and Sub Committees and to Officers/Standing Orders Relating to the Conduct of Meetings
Raòn Ùghdarrais agus Rianachd gu Comataidhean Ro-innleachdail agus Fo-chomataidhean agus gu Oifigearan

There had been circulated Report No. HC/23/14 dated 26 August 2014 by the Depute Chief Executive/Director of Corporate Development which outlined proposals for amendment to the Scheme of Delegation and Administration to Strategic Committees and Sub Committees and to Officers. In this regard, it was noted that Annual Review of the Scheme was a requirement of the Council’s Code of Corporate Governance.

In relation to Standing Orders, and in light of the amendments already agreed earlier in the year, it was suggested that there was no further requirement for any additional review at this time.


The Council AGREED the proposed amendments to the Scheme of Delegation as detailed (on the basis that an updated copy would be circulated to all Members in due course) and that there was no further requirement for any additional review of Standing Orders at this time.

15.  Timetable of Meetings
Clàr-ama Choinneamhan

There had been circulated proposed Timetable of Meetings for 2015.


The Council AGREED the proposed Timetable as circulated on the basis that the cycle of meetings in January could be cancelled in circumstances where the relevant Chair, Vice Chair and Director(s) agreed that the level of business did not require a meeting to be called at that time.

The Council also AGREED the following changes to dates of meetings in the current year –

Caithness & Sutherland Area Committee – to move from 17 to 23 September
Planning Review Body – to move from 18 September to 2 October

16.  Deeds Executed
Sgrìobhainnean Lagha a Bhuilicheadh


It was NOTED that a list of deeds and other documents executed on behalf of the Council since the meeting held on 8 May 2014 was available in the Members’ Library and on the Council’s Website.

17.  Exclusion of the Public
Às-dùnadh a’ Phobaill

The Council RESOLVED that, under Section 50A(4) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the public should be excluded from the meeting for the following item on the grounds that it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 6, 8 and 9 of Part 1 of Schedule 7A of the Act.

18.  Fort William Office Review – Tweeddale outcomes and funding
Ceannach is Maoineachadh airson Leasachadh Taigheadais sa Ghearasdan

Declaration of Interest - Mr A Baxter declared a financial interest in this item on the grounds that the landlord’s agent had contributed to his election expenses.

There had been circulated Joint Report No. HC/24/14 dated 22 August 2014 by the Directors of Development & Infrastructure and Finance on the Fort William Office Review – Tweeddale outcomes and funding.


The Council AGREED the recommendations as detailed in the report.

The meeting ended at 1.35 p.m.