Agendas, reports and minutes

Highland Council

Date: Thursday, 29 October 2020

Agenda: Read the Agenda

A meeting of the Highland Council will be held REMOTELY on Thursday, 29 October 2020 at 10.35am.

Webcast Notice: This meeting will be filmed and broadcast over the Internet on the Highland Council website and will be archived and available for viewing for 12 months thereafter.

You are invited to attend the meeting and a note of the business to be considered is attached.

Yours faithfully,

Stewart Fraser
Head of Corporate Governance


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

2. Declarations of Interest
Foillseachaidhean Com-pàirt

Members are asked to consider whether they have an interest to declare in relation to any item on the agenda for this meeting. Any Member making a declaration of interest should indicate whether it is a financial or non-financial interest and include some information on the nature of the interest. Advice may be sought from Officers prior to the meeting taking place.
3. Confirmation of Minutes
Daingneachadh a’ Gheàrr-chunntais

There are submitted for confirmation as a correct record the Minutes of the Meeting of the Council held on 10/11 September 2020 (pp.1-55) and of the Special Meeting held on 1 October 2020 (pp.56-63) as contained in the Volume which has been circulated separately.

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

There are 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:-

Economy & Infrastructure Committee - 2 September
Housing & Property Committee - 9 September
Nairnshire Committee - 16 September
Pensions Committee - 23 September
Audit and Scrutiny Committee - 24 September
Lochaber Area Committee - 28 September
Education Committee - 30 September
Black Isle, Dingwall & Seaforth Committee - 13 October (To follow)
Tourism Committee - 14 October (To follow)
Wester Ross, Strathpeffer, Skye & Lochalsh Committee - 15 October (To follow)
Caithness Committee - 22 October (To follow)

5. Highland and Western Isles Valuation Joint Board             
Co-Bhòrd Luachaidh na Gàidhealtachd is nan Eilean Siar

There are circulated for information Minutes of Meeting of the Valuation Joint Board held on 22 November 2019 (approved by the Board on 18 September which was the first meeting held in 2020).

6. Climate Change Working Group
Buidheann-Obrach Atharrachadh na Gnàth-shìde

There are circulated for approval Minutes of Meeting of the Climate Change Working Group held on Thursday, 17 September 2020.

7. Membership of Committees, etc
Ballarachd Chomataidhean, msaa

The Council is advised that Ms Maxine Smith, Mrs Pauline Munro and Mrs Liz MacDonald have confirmed that they are no longer part of the SNP Group. On that basis, Ms Smith now wishes to be known as an ‘Independent for Independence’ and Mrs Munro and Mrs MacDonald wish to be Non-Aligned.   

Membership of the Council is therefore now as follows:-

Ind – 26/SNP- 18/Cons – 10/Lib Dem – 9/Labour – 3/Green –1/Sutherland Independent – 1/Real Independent- 1/Independent for Independence – 1/Non-Aligned – 3/Vacant - 1

The formula in respect of the number of places on Strategic Committees remains unchanged at 7/5/3/3. 

Members are advised that further changes to Committee places will follow.

Items 8 and 9 below will be considered at 2.00pm

8. Question Time
Àm Ceiste      

Members are advised that – following consultation with the Convener - and to allow for staff leave – the Questions/Responses will follow
9. Notices of Motion 
Brathan Gluasaid

The following Notices of Motion were received by the Head of Corporate Governance and subsequently selected for the agenda (in line with the agreed process for selection).

(In this regard, Financial Impact Statements from the Executive Chief Officer, Resources & Finance, will follow).      

(i) Given the economic importance of Cairngorm Mountain to the economy of Aviemore and Badenoch & Strathspey and the wider Highlands, the Council welcomes and supports the decision by Scottish Government and HIE to fund the reconstruction of the funicular railway. This will provide a massive boost to the Highland economy and ensure the retention of a considerable number of very valuable jobs in the surrounding area.  

Signed:   Mrs M Davidson     Mr A Christie

(ii)The Carnegie UK Trust has brought out a new report Making a Difference: Libraries, Lockdown and Looking Ahead. This report contains recommendations that we believe will be of interest and inspiration to us as we re-open many Highland libraries.  The key points are:

  • Public library services had a positive impact on those who engaged with them during lockdown
  • Public library staff made a valuable contribution to the Covid-19 response.
  • Public library services have huge potential to support individuals and communities as they navigate the short, medium and long-term impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Public library services and their staff could have delivered much more - but faced barriers in doing so.

The report also has a section of suggested actions . Here are some - 

  • Strengthen status and voice in local authority structures, and value and invest in skilled and confident staff.
  • Recognise the digital future is here and deliver a high-quality blended service.

We request that Council agrees that we draw High Life Highland’s attention to the report and convene a cross-Chamber meeting to discuss libraries and their short and long-term future in Highland.

Signed:  Mrs M Davidson      Mr R Bremner

(iii)This Council agrees there are clear and substantial long-standing inadequacies in the sick pay system, highlighted this year by the Covid-19 crisis. In particular there is a need to:

  • Increase Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from £95.85 per week to a fairer level e.g. the level of the Real Living Wage.
  • Remove the waiting period ("waiting days") and make SSP available from the first day of sickness.
  • Remove the eligibility requirement to have average earnings of £120 per week

This Council urges UK Government to review the sick pay system and reform it as a matter of urgency.

Signed:    Mr A Graham      Mr A Christie

(iv)‘The statistics for our Council area clearly show the dependency residents are having on using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough),  additionally the alarming and rapid increases in claims for universal credit throughout Highland make it very clear that we face a bleak winter in Highland for many individuals and families. There are many challenges ahead that will have to be overcome.

Our economy has been devastated and whilst we have placed a lot of resources and time on aiding recovery, it will take time. The present furlough scheme ends on the last day of October. Whilst it is being replaced with the Job Support Scheme (JSS) this appears to be a much more complicated scheme for both employees and employers.

As a Council we will need using our own resources carefully ensuring that we can meet all the demands for our services and interventions whilst working closely with the public, 3rd sector and community partners as we face the continuing impact of the pandemic.  We must all do our best to keep food on all tables, roofs over residents’ heads and warmth in our citizens homes.

Council believes we must point out our situation to both UK and Scottish Government and ask them how they can help our communities through the coming winter. We also will arrange an urgent summit and to call our MSPs and MPs together and outline the situation to them and we seek cross chamber support to write to both governments and to explain the challenges Highland face’.

Signed:   Mrs M Davidson     Mr A Christie

(v)‘Caithness Area Committee recognises that the MeyGen project has positioned Caithness and Scotland as a world leader in the development and deployment of marine energy. The award winning and pioneering project has already produced more tidal stream power than anywhere else in the world, creating highly skilled jobs both direct, and throughout the supply chain.

Caithness Members confirm their full support for the development of the project to realise its full potential in terms of tidal energy generating capacity and the establishment of the McCloud data centre creating an integrated subsea, terrestrial, data centre and renewables project to provide Scotland with world class digital infrastructure and the necessary tools to attract Hyperscale availability zone requirements.

Caithness Area Committee further calls on Highland Council to lobby support of UK Government for a 100MW minima for tidal energy in the next CFD auction round’.

Signed:   Mr R Bremner    Ms N Sinclair   Mr K Rosie   Mr D MacKay   Mr D Louden

10.    Response to BT Consultation on Removal of Payphones   

There is circulated Report No. HC/34/20 dated 11 October 2020 by the Executive Chief Officer, Communities and Place.

The Council is asked to:-

(i)     support and endorse the concerns raised regarding the timing and content of the consultation given the current global pandemic and that this consultation follows only 9 months after the conclusion of the previous one;
(ii)    note that the Leader has written to OfCom seeking redress; and 
(iii)   consider and agree the Council’s response to BT’s proposed removal of public payphones as set out at Appendix 1.

11. Revenue Budget – Update Report
Ro-innleachd Buidseit

There is circulated Report No. HC/35/20 dated 15 October 2020 by the Executive Chief Officer, Resources and Finance. 

The Council is asked to note the contents of the report. 

12. Highland Council Capital Plan 2018/19 to 2022/23 – Update Report

There is circulated Report No. HC/36/20 dated 15 October 2020 by the Executive Chief Officer, Resources and Finance. 

The Council is asked to:-

(i)     approve the commitments to projects of £34.706m as outlined in Appendix 1;
(ii)    note the Council’s submission to the Scottish Government putting forward Broadford Primary School and Nairn Academy as the Council’s bids for phase 2 of the Learning Estate Improvement Programme as seen in Appendix 3;
(iii)   agree that an options appraisal of the possible build solution for the North Coast Care Facility is taken to the Health and Social Care Committee on the 12th November with a recommendation sought which provides best value for money and an expedient timescale for delivery owing to the urgent requirement for the new facility; and that the recommended solution is brought back to Council on December 17th for approval; and
(iv)    note the updates provided on the current capital programme, capital strategy and the Scottish Government’s Draft Infrastructure Investment Plan.

13. Annual Corporate Performance Report
Aithris Choileanaidh Bhliadhnail

There is circulated Report No. HC/37/20 dated 13 October 2020 by the Chief Executive.  

The Council is asked to:- 

(i)     scrutinise the progress being made with the delivery of the Corporate Plan for the period 01 April 2019 to 31 March 2020; 
(ii)    agree that Service Plans are refreshed for 2021/22; 
(iii)   await a further report on Statutory Performance Indicators (SPIs) and the Local Government Benchmarking Framework no later than March 2021; and 
(iv)    note that the Annual Performance & Attitudes Survey (APAS) of the Citizens Panel has not been possible this year due to Covid-19.

14. Recovery Action Plan: Phase 2 to end September 2020 – Update Report     
Bòrd Ath-shlànachaidh – Aithisg Ùrachaidh

There is circulated Report No. HC/38/20 dated 12 October 2020 by the Executive Chief Officer, Transformation.

In this regard, there are circulated Minutes of Meeting of the Recovery Board held on Wednesday, 7 October 2020.

The Council is asked to note:-

(i)     the latest progress of the Council’s Recovery Action Plan to 30 September 2020; 
(ii)    the associated implications and pressures on resources in the delivery of the Resilience activity and the Recovery programme; 
(iii)   the latest update regarding PPE requested by the Recovery Board on 7 October 2020; 
(iv)    that a Vice-Chair is to be appointed to the Recovery Board; and
(v)     that a Brexit SWOT analysis will be undertaken by the Brexit Working Group and the outcome reported to the next Recovery Board.

15. Redesign Board Update – Workforce Planning & Development

There is circulated Report No. HC/39/20 dated 12 October 2020 by the Executive Chief Officer, Resources and Finance. 

The Council is asked to note the progress of the Workforce Planning & Development Project.

In this regard, there are circulated Minutes of Meeting of the Redesign Board held on Thursday, 8 October 2020.

16. Consultation on Short Term Lets – Licensing Scheme and Planning Control Area

There is circulated Report No. HC/40/20 dated 19 October 2020 by the Executive Chief Officer, Communities and Place. 

The Council is asked to:-

(i)     note that short-term lets have significant economic benefits to Highland communities but in some circumstances there can be negative impacts;
(ii)    note the proposals will have significant resource implications for the Council and agree that costs of administering the scheme will be recovered in full through fees, as permitted by the licensing scheme;
(iii)   note that any costs incurred through the establishment of Control Areas under Planning legislation cannot be recovered in this way and so will be additional; 
(iv)    agree the implementation of Planning Control areas will be the subject of a report to the Economy and Infrastructure Committee after the regulations are finalised;
(v)     agree the setting of fees for the proposed licensing scheme will be the subject of a report to the Licensing Committee after the regulations are finalised; and
(vi)    agree to homologate the consultation response which was submitted to meet the Scottish Government deadline of 16th October. 

17. Highland Council Whistleblowing Policy
Poileasaidh Innsireachd Chomhairle na Gàidhealtachd

There is circulated Report No. HC/41/20 dated 13 October 2020 by the Corporate Audit and Performance Manager.

The Council is asked to:-

(i)     consider the revised Highland Council’s Whistleblowing Policy and approve the policy for immediate implementation; 
(ii)    consider the supplementary guidance note for staff on raising concerns and approve for immediate implementation; 
(iii)   note the intention to provide an annual monitoring report to the Audit & Scrutiny Committee beginning June 2021; and 
(iv)    note the intention to review the policy with Trade Unions and with Staff Forum input and report this to Audit & Scrutiny Committee in June 2021 along with any recommendations for change to be scrutinised and recommended to Council for approval.

18. Timetable of Meetings for 2020/21
Clàr-ama Choinneamhan airson 2020

The Council is asked to agree the proposed Timetable of Meetings for 2021 as circulated.

The Council is also asked to agree the following change to the current timetable – 

Gaelic Committee – meeting date to be changed from 21 October to 5 November 

19. Church Representative – Education Committee

The Council is required, in terms of Section 31 of the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994, to have a minimum of three Church representatives on the Education Committee, two of whom are to be appointed on direct nomination (by the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church) and the third involving discretionary procedures.

In this regard, and on the basis of the rota system previously agreed by the Council, Mr Ross Finlay has been nominated by the Free Church of Scotland as its representative to sit on the Committee.

The Council is therefore invited to note the nomination of Mr Finlay as detailed.

20. Deeds Executed
Sgrìobhainnean Lagha a Bhuilicheadh

Members are asked to note that a list of deeds and other documents executed on behalf of the Council since the meeting held on 10/11 September 2020 are available on the Council’s Website.