Agendas, reports and minutes
Date: Thursday, 30 October 2014
Minutes: Read the Minutes (Items 15-21)
15. Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership
Ath-nuadhachadh Ghallaibh agus Chataibh
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 G Farlow, Mr T Prag, Ms G Ross and Mr R Saxon - Members of the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership
Mr D Hendry - Chair of the Advisory Board for the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership
Mr G Farlow - Member of Dounreay Stakeholders Group
There had been circulated Report No. HC/29/14 dated 15 October 2014 by the Director of Development and Infrastructure which reviewed the activities and achievements of the Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership over the past year, reported on current issues and set out recommendations to support the delivery of Partnership priorities in the coming years.
During a summary of the report, it was explained that the Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership (CNSRP) had been brought together in 2007 as a partnership of the main organisations with a remit to address the socio-economic effects of the decommissioning of the Dounreay site. Since then, the Partnership had pursued a series of prioritised actions which were aimed at broadening the area’s economic base and reducing the impact of the loss of Dounreay.
An outline of the key achievements of the Partnership was also provided in relation to Energy and Business Services, Skills & Educational Infrastructure, Caithness Chamber of Commerce, Business Growth, Tourism, Food and Drink, Transport and Digital Connectivity, together with details of measuring progress in terms of jobs targets, communications and a forward plan.
During discussion, Members raised the following issues:-
a number of excellent outcomes and results had been achieved through this Partnership and thanks were conveyed to all concerned;
this represented an example of best practice through strong and committed partnership working which should be highlighted and replicated wherever possible;
it was encouraging to see so many major projects coming to fruition with tremendous achievements in key sectors;
there had been a consistent focus on ‘joined up’ thinking and long term planning and this was especially encouraging for the future of the area;
the current budgetary situation could pose potential difficulties for the area, such as in reduction in teacher numbers or difficulties with recruitment, and these should be acknowledged;
there was still considerable potential for expansion of industry in the area and this should be pursued where possible;
the area was becoming a much more diverse economy and this was welcomed; and
there was a need for clarification as to why Georgemas Junction was not being used to its full potential, particularly in terms of the transportation of nuclear fuel.
(i) NOTED that the Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership had continued to make good progress over the last twelve months;
(ii) NOTED the value of the administrative and office support contributed by the Council to the Partnership and AGREED that an options paper for such support beyond April 2017 be presented to the relevant Council Committee by September 2016;
(iii) AGREED the need for the Partnership’s continued existence and the value of producing an updated Plan to look beyond 2017;
(iv) AGREED that the Council would continue to work with Highlands & Islands Enterprise and other partners to ensure the successful delivery of the Business & Industrial Park at Scrabster Harbour;
(v) AGREED that the Council would continue to work with Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership partners to ensure support for Wick Harbour Authority’s ambitious plans to capture the employment potential from the operation and maintenance of offshore wind sites in the Moray Firth;
(vi) AGREED that the Council would continue to work with Highlands and Islands Airports Limited and Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership partners to ensure that the energy and tourism related opportunities at Wick John O’Groats Airport were supported by development of appropriate hangar facilities;
(vii) AGREED that the Council would continue to investigate sustainable future options for the B876 road between Hastigrow and Killimster in Caithness to ensure its continued role as a key transport route;
(viii) AGREED that the Council and other partners would continue to work with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the Babcock Dounreay Partnership to maximise the impact of their respective socio-economic activities in Caithness & North Sutherland, including the early development of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s National Nuclear Archive project for Wick and inward investment opportunities through Babcock Dounreay Partnership’s corporate partners; and
(ix) AGREED the partnership continue to work with Highlands & Islands Enterprise to ensure that the area’s important business potential was recognised through the widest possible superfast broadband coverage for settlements in Caithness and North Sutherland through the Highlands & Islands Enterprise led Next Generation Access project.
16. Carbon Clever Programme Plan and Update
Carbon Ciallach – Cleachdadh Fearainn
There had been circulated Report No. HC/30/14 dated 17 October 2014 by the Head of Policy and Reform which provided an update on the Carbon CLEVER Programme Plan and in particular the Chapter on Land Use and Resources. An update on a number of Carbon CLEVER projects was also provided.
During a summary of the report, and with particular reference to the chapter on Land Use and Resources, it was explained that, due to the wide range of demands on land use across the Highlands, it would be vital to ensure that achieving a low carbon Highlands protected, restored and enhanced the region’s carbon stores in light of a range of pressures, including changes in the global climate. In this regard, it was highlighted that land in the Highlands acted as a major carbon sink through soils, peat lands and forestry and land use was therefore hugely important to offsetting carbon emissions and mitigating against climate change.
The chapter highlighted Council commitments and Single Outcome Agreement outcomes relevant to role of Land Use and Resources to achieve a low carbon Highlands. Other key items in the chapter included using land and resources to realise economic, social and environmental benefits; an increased amenity value of sites across the region; a resource efficient society – reduce, re-use, recycle; more sites for allotments and community growing schemes enabling an increased production of locally sourced food and an engagement strategy.
Carbon CLEVER project updates within the report included reference to Capital Programme allocation; Carbon CLEVER Declaration; Inverness Car Club; Local Energy Economy Consortium (LEEC); Nairn Community project; Strategies Towards Energy Performance and Urban Planning (STEP-UP) and Climate Change Leadership Programme.
During discussion, Members raised the following issues:-
this project was warmly welcomed, particularly in terms of what was being delivered;
the ‘Nairn Community Project’ could perhaps be more appropriately named as the ‘Nairn Efficiency Project’ in terms of its relation to public buildings;
with reference to the three current long distance routes in the Highlands, work was now underway to develop the ‘Moray Coastal Trail Links’ and this was welcomed;
there was a need for as many Members as possible to attend the forthcoming Carbon CLEVER Conference in November as it was particularly helpful in highlighting how communities could become involved;
in terms of the Carbon CLEVER project updates which had been listed in the report, and with specific reference to the Capital Programme allocation, there was a need for clarification in terms of the cost of borrowing £1m per annum and also the £425k which was yet to be spent as it was understood that this would incur recurring revenue costs of £42k per annum;
in regard to the proposals in relation to LED Lighting, it was queried as to how and when the proposed savings of £60k would be realised;
re-consideration should be given to the switching off of lights in the Highlands at certain times, with specific reference made to North and West Sutherland; and
thanks were conveyed to the Officials involved with the wide range of exciting initiatives which had been detailed within the report.
(i) AGREED the draft Land Use and Resources chapter appended to the report and NOTED that the final draft would be subject to wider consultation with relevant groups;
(ii) NOTED that the Carbon CLEVER Programme Plan would be presented at the second Carbon CLEVER Conference on 17 November 2014 to receive feedback and to identify priorities for the next 3 years; and
(iii) AGREED that £225k be allocated to accelerate the LED Street Lighting Programme as set out in Appendix 2 of the report and AGREED that this allocation increase to £425k as set out in Appendix 3 if no further capital projects were identified and approved by November 2014.
17. Citizens’ Panel 2014 - Performance and Attitudes Survey – Results
Pannal nan Saoranach 2014 - Suirbhidh Coileanaidh is Bheachdan – Toraidhean
Declaration of Interest
The undernoted Members 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
There had been circulated Report No. HC/31/14 dated 23 September 2014 by the Chief Executive which confirmed that the survey results from the Citizens’ Panel showed generally positive trends and improving satisfaction with most services surveyed over a five year period and positive perceptions of community life in the Highlands. In addition, a number of actions had been identified which should help sustain or improve public perception of the Council in the future.
During a summary of the report, it was confirmed that 1148 responses had been received from the Panel of just over 2,750 adults, including 332 electronic responses, which represented a 41.9% response rate. It was considered that this number of responses, along with the sampling method used, provided good validity in the results: a 95% confidence level was achieved with a confidence interval of +or- 2.9%.
In this regard, the key findings and follow up actions had been highlighted within the report, along with proposed improvements to the survey and the reporting process.
During discussion, Members raised the following issues:-
the statistics which had been provided in regard to Equalities were particularly worrying and there was a need for the Council to shape views and challenge stigma and discrimination at every opportunity in terms of the ongoing promotion of equality and diversity;
the statistics within the survey in relation to how people preferred to make contact with the Council appeared to vary from the information which had been provided as part of the Customer Services Review process. (In this regard, it was clarified at the meeting that the information provided as part of the Customer Services Review process had been correct. The statistics from the survey had been obtained subsequently and upon examination it appeared that there seemed to be differences between what people said they preferred and what was actually happening);
it would be helpful if the report could be presented in a more manageable and easy to read format in future;
the feedback from the Panel was very valuable and it was important that respondents were contacted to inform them how this feedback was to be used to improve performance;
the Survey represented a very important barometer of trends and this was welcomed;
it was hoped that the Customer Services Board could use aspects of the information which had been provided in its ongoing deliberations;
the Citizens’ Advice Bureau had received very positive feedback and this had to be commended; and
there was a need to review how the Council dealt with disabled and disadvantaged people across the Highlands in view of the feedback which had been received.
(i) NOTED the key findings of the feedback from the Citizens’ Panel from the current year’s survey, the overall positive results and the actions being taken to address areas for improvement; and
(ii) APPROVED the follow up action to communicate the results widely and the specific actions set out in Paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3, as well as the action proposed in Section 4, of the report to continuously improve the survey process.
18. Nairn Common Good Fund, Restitution of Rental Income – Lochloy Caravan Park, Nairn
Maoin Math Coimhearsnachd Inbhir Narann, Ath-dhìoladh Teachd-a-steach
Màil, Pàirc Charabhanaichean Lochloy, Inbhir Narann
There had been circulated Report No. HC/32/14 dated 17 October 2014 by the Director of Finance which confirmed that the Council administered property, including land and cash, held on the account of the Nairn Common Good Fun but had not met the standard of administration expected in relation to the management of a leasehold interest at the Lochloy Caravan Park, Nairn.
During a summary of the report, it was explained that a lease arrangement between Nairn District Council and Scotia Caravans had provided for rental to be increased in line with the increase in RPI on 31 October 1992 and on the expiry of each subsequent seven year period. Rental should have been reviewed therefore on 31 October 1999 and 31 October 2006.
In July 2013, it had been discovered that this had not taken place and legal advice had confirmed that the Council could not demand payment of the increased rental from the tenant and as a result £0.187m had been lost in both increased rent and interest.
The report detailed the governance arrangements and the results of a management review which sought to implement a range of measures and it was confirmed that two options were now available to the Council - to pay the sum of £0.187m from Council balances or to reduce the Council’s interest in its share of ownership of the Sandown Lands which would permit the Nairn Common Good Fund to benefit to a greater extent from the potential future sale of the land.
During discussion, Members expressed their gratitude to the Officials who had brought this matter to their attention and regretted the previous failure in governance which had allowed this situation to occur. On that basis, they were satisfied that the situation had now been the subject of extensive review and that robust practices and procedures had now been put in place to ensure that this was not repeated.
In this regard, it was confirmed that the preferred option was for a cash settlement to be paid to the Nairn Common Good Fund. It was also suggested that discussion should be undertaken between the Chair of the Audit & Scrutiny Committee and the Director of Finance in relation to whether a report on this matter needed to be submitted to the Audit & Scrutiny Committee at a future date.
(i) AGREED to accept that the Council had not met the standard of administration expected in respect of its duty to manage the funds and assets of the Nairn Common Good Fund account under control of the Council;
(ii) AGREED to pay restitution to the Nairn Common Good Fund account totalling £0.187m;
(iii) AGREED that the Council should pay a cash settlement to the Nairn Common Good Fund as per Paragraph 3.2 of the report; and
(iv) NOTED progress with the ongoing review of the Nairn Common Good Fund.
19. Appointments to Major External Bodies and Arms’ Length Organisations
Ballrachd ann am Buidhnean air an Taobh A-Muigh
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 I Brown - Director of Highland Opportunity Ltd
Mrs H Carmichael – Director of Inverness Leisure
Ms J Douglas - Director of Highlife Highland Ltd
Mr A Duffy – Director of Inverness Leisure
Mr D Fallows – Director of Highland Opportunity Ltd
Mr B Fernie – Director of Highland Opportunity Ltd
Mr K Gowans – Director of Highlife Highland Ltd and Eden Court and his wife was an employee of Highlife Highland Ltd
Mr B Lobban – Director of Highland Opportunity Ltd
Mrs L MacDonald – Director of Highland Opportunity Ltd
Mr T MacLennan - Director of Highland Opportunity Ltd
Mr D Millar - Director of Highlife Highland Ltd
Mr T Prag – Director of Highland Opportunity Ltd
Mrs J Slater – Director of Eden Court
Mr J Stone – Director of Highland Opportunity Ltd
Mr H Wood – Director of Inverness Leisure
At the commencement of discussion, Mr B Lobban and Mr G Rimell declared financial interests as Members of the Cairngorms National Park Board and left the room.
There had been circulated Report No. HC/33/14 dated 21 October 2014 by the Depute Chief Executive/Director of Corporate Development which proposed revised arrangements for the appointment of Members to major external bodies and arms’ length organisations (ALEOs) further to the recommendations of the Audit Scotland report which had been reported to the Council in November 2011 and the follow-up report submitted to the Audit & Scrutiny Committee in September 2014.
During a summary of the report, it was explained that the 2014 Audit Scotland review considered by the Audit & Scrutiny Committee in September had concluded that the Council demonstrated basic practice in its governance arrangements covering ALEOs. There had been several areas of good practice identified which were detailed in the report. To strengthen overall governance, Audit Scotland had proposed a range of principles and revised arrangements for the appointment of Members to these bodies which were also set out in the report.
It was proposed that the arrangements be applied to new appointments made to the organisations listed in the report and that further consideration might be given to extending the arrangements to other large outside bodies to which the Council provided significant funding.
During discussion, Members raised the following issues:-
there was a need for clarification as to whether the NHS Highland Board and the Cairngorms National Park Board should also be included;
it was queried as to whether the reference to ‘new appointments’ being made related to those to be made after the next Local Government Elections in 2017;
the proposed composition of the Panel should comprise Members with skill and knowledge of the subject matter and should not be based on political balance;
it was recognised that the new proposals outlined in the report represented a better process which could be followed in terms of external appointments in future and this was welcomed;
it was helpful that external bodies would be responsible for providing specifications in relation to the skills required in the future; and
it was proposed within the report that representation would only be sought from the ‘principal’ Opposition Group within the Council but this was unfair as the situation could change in the future and there could be more than one Opposition Group.
In this regard, Dr D Alston, seconded by Mr A Christie, MOVED the recommendations within the report – with a change to the proposed composition of the Panel to include representation from the Opposition Group – or Groups – within the Council.
As an AMENDMENT, Ms J Douglas, seconded by Mrs C Wilson, moved that this item should be deferred to allow further discussion.
On a vote being taken, the MOTION received 26 votes and the AMENDMENT received 18 votes, with no abstentions, and the MOTION was therefore CARRIED, the votes having been cast as follows:-
For the MOTION
Alston, D; Baxter, A; Christie, A; Cockburn, I; Duffy, A; Fallows, D; Farlow, G; Fraser, C; Gowans, K; Graham, A; Gray, J; Hendry, D; Laird, R; Macaulay, C; MacDonald, L; MacKenzie, G; MacLean, A; MacLeod, K; McAllister, E; Munro, L; Prag, T; Renwick, I; Slater, J; Smith, M; Stone, J; Wood, H.
For the AMENDMENT
Barclay, J; Caddick, C; Campbell, J; Davidson, M; Douglas, J; Fernie, B; Fraser, H; Fraser, L; Greene, R; Mackinnon, A; McCallum, I; Paterson, M; Reiss, M; Robertson, F; Ross, G (W14); Sinclair, A; Stephen, K; Wilson, C.
The Council APPROVED the procedure for the appointments to major external bodies and arms’ length organisations as detailed in Paragraph 2.1 of the report.
It was also AGREED that the Panel should consist of the Leaders of the Administration Groups and the Opposition Group (or Groups) - with the Depute Leaders as substitutes.
20. Scheme of Delegation and Administration to Strategic Committees and Sub Committees and to Officers
Sgeama Tiomnaidh agus Rianachd do Chomataidhean is Fo-chomataidhean Ro-innleachdail agus Oifigearan
There had been circulated Report No. HC/34/14 dated 17 October 2014 by the Depute Chief Executive/Director of Corporate Development which proposed further amendments to the Scheme of Delegation.
The Council AGREED the proposed amendments to the Scheme as detailed in the report.
21. 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 4 September 2014 was available in the Members’ Library and on the Council’s Website.
The meeting ended at 5.40pm.
- Item 6 Highland and Western Isles Valuation Joint Board Minutes - 1 May 2014 Report, 481.66 KB
- Item 7 Customer Services Board Minutes - 16 September 2014 Report, 479.77 KB
- Item 9i Question Time - Response to Mr A Baxter Report, 460.78 KB
- Item 9ii Question Time - Response to Ms J Douglas Report, 973.32 KB
- Item 9iii Question Time - Response to Ms J Douglas Report, 469.18 KB
- Item 11 Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs) – Update Report Report, 467.87 KB
- Item 12 Community Empowerment Bill – Update, Implications and Opportunities Report, 620.28 KB
- Item 13 Report of the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy Report, 1.8 MB
- Item 14 Annual Treasury Management Report – 2013/14 Report, 1.16 MB
- Item 15 Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership Report, 551.63 KB
- Item 16 Carbon Clever Programme Plan and Update Report, 651.56 KB
- Item 17 Citizens’ Panel 2014 - Performance and Attitudes Survey – Results Report, 536.83 KB
- Item 18 Nairn Common Good Fund, Restitution of Rental Income – Lochloy Caravan Report, 484.4 KB
- Item 19 Appointments to Major External Bodies and Arms’ Length Organisations Report, 491.84 KB
- Item 20 Scheme of Delegation Report, 492.14 KB
- Item 21 Deeds Executed Report, 29.21 KB