Agendas, reports and minutes

Highland Council

Date: Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Minutes: Read the Minutes

Minutes of Meeting of the Highland Council held in the Council Chamber, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on Wednesday, 16 January 2019 at 2.00pm.

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


Mr G Adam, Mr R Balfour, Mrs J Barclay, Mr A Baxter, Mr B Boyd, Mr R Bremner (V/C), Mr I Brown, Mr J Bruce, Mrs C Caddick, Miss J Campbell, Mrs I Campbell, Mrs G Campbell-Sinclair, Mrs H Carmichael, Mr A Christie, Mrs M Cockburn, Mr G Cruickshank, Ms K Currie, Mrs M Davidson, Mr J Finlayson, Mr M Finlayson, Mr C Fraser, Mr R Gale, Mr J Gordon, Mr K Gowans, Mr A Graham, Mr J Gray, Mr A Henderson, Mr A Jarvie , Ms E Knox, Mr R Laird, Mr B Lobban, Mr D Louden, Mrs L MacDonald, Mr A MacInnes, Mrs D Mackay, Mr D Mackay, Mr W MacKay (V/C), Mr G MacKenzie, Mrs I MacKenzie, Mr S Mackie, Mr A Mackinnon, Mrs A MacLean, Mr D MacLeod, Mr D Macpherson, Mr R MacWilliam, Mrs B McAllister, Ms L Munro, Mrs M Paterson, Mr I Ramon, Mr M Reiss , Mr D Rixson, Mrs F Robertson, Mrs T Robertson, Mr K Rosie , Mr G Ross, Mr P Saggers, Mr A Sinclair , Ms N Sinclair (V/C), Mr C Smith, Ms M Smith, Mr B Thompson , Ms C Wilson

Also in Attendance:

Miss E Leitch, Youth Convener    

In Attendance:
Chief Executive
Acting Head of Policy    

Mr B Lobban in the Chair

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

Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Mr B Allan, Dr I Cockburn, Mr L Fraser, Ms P Hadley, Mr T Heggie, Mr R MacDonald, Mr C MacLeod, Mr J McGillivray, Mr N McLean, Mrs P Munro and Mr H Morrison.

2. Declarations of Interest
Foillseachaidhean Com-pàirt

There were no Declarations of Interest.

3. Review of the Highland Scheme of Establishment for Community Councils 2018/19     
Ath-sgrùdadh air Sgeama Stèidheachaidh na Gàidhealtachd airson Chomhairlean Coimhearsnachd 2018/19

There had been circulated Report No. HC/1/19 dated 4 January 2019 by the Acting Head of Policy.

The Acting Head of Policy having set out the process for the review and the initial engagement which had taken place, the following issues were raised by Members during discussion:-

  • acknowledging the considerable work undertaken by officers, appreciation was also expressed to those Community Councils who had already taken part in the pre-phase of engagement.  Moving to the next stage it was important Community Councils were aware of the timescales involved.  Everyone was to be encouraged to feed into the consultation;
  • the strength of feeling over some proposed changes to Community Council boundaries in Caithness was acknowledged and it was proposed that these were revisited in consultation with Local Members and the Community Councils concerned.  In this regard, some boundaries in Inverness were no longer appropriate and they too required to be re-examined so that they better represented communities rather than historical electoral wards;
  • going forward there would be further opportunities to revisit Community Council boundaries;
  • increasing grants to rural Community Councils would have a corresponding effect of reducing grants to urban ones.  Furthermore, some Community Councils had more resources available to them and therefore the whole system of their funding should be looked at taking into account the core functions of Community Councils;
  • additional funding could be made available through establishment of a Discretionary Fund.  However, while there was appetite to review the funding formula, the Scheme was being reviewed within existing resources, the budget for which had been reduced for 2018/19;  
  • the impact of cuts already made to Community Council grants was recognised;
  • the costs of remote Community Councils travelling to meeting in Inverness should be taken into account;
  • the role of Community Councils needed to be re-examined.  At present, they were seen as consultees and not decision makers and a change to this regime was proposed.  For example, representations made by Community Councils on planning applications could be included in reports considered by the Council’s Planning Application Committees;
  • empowering Community Councils would enable Highland Council to better deliver services.  In addition, by delegating powers and budgets to Community Councils, it would delegate a greater degree of democracy. However, it was also important at the same time not to overburden Community Councils;
  • comparison was made to English Parish and Neighbourhood Councils and to how effective and successful they could be.  As their role was valued contested elections often took place.  A similar arrangement should be considered for Community Councils;
  • there was support to consider, as part of the review, the possibility of a local levy;
  • the inclusion of the recording of declarations of interests would protect Community Councillors, especially if they were to have a greater influence in the planning process and negotiating community benefit.  In this regard, the guidance provided to them should be clear;
  • wider public participation needed to be encouraged with many Community Councils relying on co-opted members.  In this regard, Members welcomed youth participation and perhaps extending the suggested 14-18 age group to younger people who often had innovative ideas;
  • Community Councillors were often the first step to standing for election to Highland Council.  They often too acted as a springboard for the creation of other community groups who were able to source funding;
  • although there was an aspiration to use electronic voting, the cost and high level security concerns needed to be addressed.  It was suggested this be explored with the Council’s IT officers as it might also have merit as a means of communication with the general public around participatory budgeting.  While consideration might also be given to processes such as postal voting, this should be only one out of a range of options;
  • the practise of consultation with Community Councils should not cease in June 2019 but be an on-going process to ensure that the Highland Council could invigorate and sustain Community Councils into the future;
  • the frustrations experienced by Community Councillors were recognised: while they were consulted their views were not always listened to leading to a sense of powerlessness;
  • there were many welcome suggestions in the Scheme and in the proposed response to the Local Governance Review response such as supporting a change in the legal status of Community Councils and allowing them to have similar arrangements as those afforded to Highland Councillors who were unable to attend meetings due to extenuating circumstances;
  • in examining the ideal governance structure this had to be within the confines of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.  However, Members had the opportunity here to encourage localism, community empowerment and to stimulate activity, especially in those areas where Community Councils were in abeyance; and
  • the public should be encouraged to attend meetings by assuring them that they could expect that their views would be listened to.

The Council:-

i.  AGREED to the formal review of the Highland Scheme of Establishment for Community Councils as required under section 53 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973;
ii. AGREED to the draft proposals outlined in Section 4 of the report and in appendices 1-3 with the exception of a change to the boundary proposals set out in appendix 2 and section 4.1 of Appendix 1 relating to Caithness and Inverness where, following local discussion, it is proposed that these are replaced with a single proposal to “Review Caithness and Inverness Community Council boundaries in conjunction with local Community Councils”; 
iii.NOTED that a three month consultation will take place seeking public views on the draft proposals and seeking any further representations for amendments to the Scheme; and
iv. AGREED that the areas outlined at section 4.11.6 of the report are included as part of the Council’s response to the Local Governance Review.

The meeting ended at 3.00 pm.