Agendas, reports and minutes

Highland Council

Date: Thursday, 9 December 2021

Agenda: Read the Agenda

A meeting of the Highland Council will be held REMOTELY on Thursday, 9 December 2021 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. Membership of the Council
Ballrachd na Comhairle

The Council is advised that the result of the By-Election for Ward 21 (which will be held on 2 December) will follow. 

In respect of the resignation of Mr B Thompson (Ward 11), it is confirmed that, due to this being received within six months of the date of the next Local Government Elections, a By-Election will not be held.

4. Confirmation of Minutes  
Daingneachadh a’ Gheàrr-chunntais

There are submitted for confirmation as a correct record the Minutes of Meeting of the Council held on 28 October (pp.628-667) as contained in the Volume which has been circulated separately.

5. 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:-

Caithness Committee, 3 November
Wester Ross, Strathpeffer & Lochalsh Committee, 4 November
Lochaber Area Committee, 8 November
Badenoch & Strathspey Committee, 9 November
Dingwall & Seaforth Committee, 9 November
Communities & Place Committee, 10 November
Health, Social Care & Wellbeing Committee, 11 November
Black Isle Committee, 16 November
Education Committee, 17 November
*City of Inverness Area Committee, 18 November
*Starred Item 6 – Inner Moray Firth Proposed Local Development Plan 2 – 

Noted the issues raised by respondents to the consultation on strategic matters and Officer recommended responses as detailed in Appendix 2 of the report and to recommend to the Economy and Infrastructure Committee and the Local/City Committee’s view on these strategic matters. 
Noted that any material changes would be agreed in consultation and agreement with the Chair of the relevant Committee(s) prior to publication.

*Easter Ross Area Committee, 18 November

*Starred Item 4 – Inner Moray Firth Proposed Local Development Plan 2 – 

Noted the issues raised by respondents to the consultation on strategic matters and Officer recommended responses both as detailed at Appendix 2 and to recommend to the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, with the exception that the Area Committee wished the Hinterland Boundary for Wards 6 and 7 to be removed to exclude any areas of Hinterland within those wards.

Noted that any material changes would be agreed in consultation and agreement with the Chair of the relevant Committee(s) prior to publication.

*Sutherland County Committee, 22 November

*Starred Item 5 - Golspie Associated School Group Overview

Agreed to call on Highland Council to reinstate the lost PSA hours in Schools across Sutherland.  The impact of the lost hours was having a detrimental effect on the most vulnerable children and a knock-on effect for the schools as a whole.  From information received from Parent Councils, and former PSA’s who were dismissed without notice, there had been no consultation on the reduction of PSA hours and parents had not been informed. In addition, when approached to ascertain how many hours had been lost, staff had declined to answer on the grounds that they feared for their own position.

Given all of the above, it was the opinion of the Sutherland County Committee that PSA hours should be reinstated with immediate effect.

Corporate Resources Committee, 24 November
Audit & Scrutiny Committee, 25 November
Isle of Skye & Raasay Committee, 29 November

*Starred Item 6 – Storr Future Development

Agreed that a report should be presented to a future Corporate Resources Committee meeting seeking approval of the required set-up funding to deliver the installation on the retail module at Storr.
Nairnshire Committee, 1 December (To follow)
Economy & Infrastructure Committee, 2 December (To follow)
Tourism Committee, 6 December (To follow)

Minutes of Meetings not included in the Volume are as follows -

(i)    Investment Sub Committee – for noting – held on 17 September 2021.

(ii)    Community Planning Board – for noting – held on 22 September 2021 (approved by the Board on 4 November 2021).

(iii)    Recruitment Panel – for noting – held on 11 November and 25 November 2021.

(iv)    Recovery, Improvement and Transformation Board – for approval – held on 29 November 2021.

6. Appointment of Chair of the Housing & Property Committee/Membership
Ballarachd Chomataidhean, msaa

The Council is invited to appoint a new Chair for the Housing & Property Committee. 

Items 7 and 8 will be considered at 2.00pm

7. Question Time                                                                                        
Àm Ceiste      

Members are advised that the Questions and Responses will follow. 

8. Notices of Motion 
Brathan Gluasaid    
The following Notices of Motion have been received by the Head of Corporate Governance –

(i)The Council believes that the regionalisation of Councils has been a failed experiment and a singular unitary authority for the Highland region does not, and has not, served the people of the Highlands effectively and fairly. 

The local authority is often tasked with delivering objectives that may present opposing outcomes for Highland constituents. Within housing, school estates and road infrastructure; the growth of the City of Inverness and the surrounding commuting areas calls for an expansion of current provision. However, in most of our rural areas, local representatives fight for the mere retention of such services and seek to reverse the trend of population decline. 

Although the matter was raised directly at Holyrood in the context of a dedicated local authority for the City of Inverness, this Council believes that a holistic review of the local authority area is required to create representative and effective Councils for all areas of the Highland region. 

Whilst some thirteen local government areas maintained their Councils, such as Clackmannan and Moray who both have smaller populations than our own, the current arrangement for the Highlands is neither equitable nor sustainable.

The Council therefore asks the Scottish Government and the Minister for Local Government to review the existing Highland Council area, with the view to returning local authorities to their most localised form possible.   

Signed:   Mr S Mackie    Mr J McGillivray     Mr A Baxter

(ii)Older People’s Champion

Council recognises and values the contributions that older people play in our society.

We are therefore seeking Council support for Age Scotland and the Scottish Older People’s Assembly’s (SOPA) campaign for every local authority in Scotland to establish the role of Older People’s Champion and to appoint three Councillors to the position across Highlands. 

An Older People’s Champion is a Councillor who acts as a link between the Council and older people in the local area. Age Scotland and SOPA also want to see a network of Older People’s Champions from across Scotland, who will be a voice for older people at local and national level, work together on shared challenges and collectively influence for change. It would be beneficial if our area were represented.

With a growing older population, it is vital that local decision-making meets the needs of older people and that Councillors have a better understanding of these. Local authorities, health and social care partnerships and the Third Sector are responsible for providing and supporting so many services upon which older people rely – such as public transport, social care provision, housing, planning, and communities. As many local authority budgets are under pressure, older people need someone specifically tasked with representing and supporting their interests and finding out what they need from local decisionmakers. There is no budgetary implication attached to this role.

We believe the impact of COVID-19 on Scotland’s older people has only strengthened the need for an Older People’s Champion here.

We hope that Highland Council can support this campaign and will establish the role of an Older People’s Champion for our Council. If Council agrees this motion, we propose that three Councillors are nominated after the next May 2022 Council Election as our Older Peoples Champions for the whole of Highlands.

Signed:     Mrs I MacKenzie      Mr D Fraser     Mrs I Campbell     Mrs C Caddick

(iii)The Highland Council area is now a net exporter of electricity to the national grid, in addition all our energy is green hydro or wind generated. Due to the historic method of calculating transmission charges, households and business customers in the north pay some of highest rates for electricity. Based on the standard tariffs and average daily use, this costs each household an extra £60/year compared with the central belt of Scotland. Although Ofgem are undertaking a review of transmission charges they are not expecting to make any immediate changes. We therefore ask that the Council write to Ofgem asking 1) that transmission charges for the north of Scotland are immediately brought into line with the south of Scotland 2) Future charges are lowered further to reflect that the Highlands are a net exporter of green energy. We also ask that we seek support from the Scottish Government and that they also lobby for fair tariffs for the Highlands.

Signed:    Mr D Fraser     Mrs T Robertson    Mr J Gray     Mrs M Davidson

(iv)This Council acknowledges the importance the existing pavement network has in encouraging the modal shift of people towards active travel as the key infrastructure both throughout our towns and villages and in linking homes with dedicated active travel infrastructure. 

At the forthcoming budget, Council agrees to do all it can to increase the budget for maintaining pavement surfaces and kerbing to encourage more walking, wheeling and cycling. Thus, being consistent with the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency.

Signed:    Mr A Jarvie     Mr D Macpherson

9. Medium Term Financial Planning     
Planadh Ionmhasail Meadhan-ùine

There will follow Report No. HC/33/21.

10. Future Highlands Strategic Partnership Priority 4: Place – Place Based Planning and Investment in Communities  
Ro-innleachd Com-pàirteachas na Gàidhealtachd san Àm ri Teachd Cuspair 4: Planadh Stèidhichte air Àite agus Tasgadh ann an Coimhearsnachdan

There is circulated Report No. HC/34/21 dated 26 November 2021 by the Chief Executive.   

The Council is invited to:- 

(i)    note progress made to develop the 4th strand of ‘Future Highlands’ which is ‘place’ and agree the Strategy for SPP4 at Appendix 1 of the report; 
(ii)    agree the approach to SPP4, including the Place Based Framework, as set out in Appendix 1 of the report; 
(iii)    note that this means it will underpin the approach to Council service delivery, service planning and area reviews in the future; 
(iv)    agree that officers seek Community Planning partners’ adoption of the Place Based Vision, Values and 8 step process as set out in Appendix 1 of the report to transform how different organisations work together for communities;
(v)    note that this approach with Partners will build on the discussions with Members in the Member seminar in May 2021 on supporting community ownership and the Member seminar in August 2021 on improving community planning;
(vi)    note the Partnership approach being adopted to lead on economic recovery, connectivity and visitor management and the actions and next steps outlined; and
(vii)    note that further updates on all five Strategic Partnership Priorities will be brought to future Council meetings.

11. COP26 and Net Zero Update
Gluasad air Gnàth-shìde às dèidh COP 26

There is circulated Report No. HC/35/21 dated 22 November 2021 by the Executive Chief Officer Performance and Governance. 

The Council is invited to:- 

(i)    note the outcomes arising from COP26; 
(ii)    agree the recommended approach to the development of a net zero strategy and action plan, including clear targets and performance indicators, as set out in section 6 and Appendix 2 of the report;
(iii)    agree that the Climate Change Action Plan will be brought back to Council for approval; 
(iv)    agree that a programme management approach will be taken to delivering the Action Plan with the high-level programme overseen by Council and the detail of individual thematic workstreams reported to the Climate Change Working Group and approved at the relevant strategic committees and Boards, as set out in Appendix 2 of the report;
(v)    note the intention to develop a structured and pro-active communications strategy and plan to support the Council’s Climate Action activity and roll out carbon literacy training and a series of seminars for staff and Members in 2022;
(vi)    agree the Transformation Fund should continue be used to ensure resources in the Climate Change team are sufficient to provide the strategic leadership required as well as to support delivery against the identified themes; and
(vii)    agree that additional external funding is also required in order to fully deliver the Council’s duties and endorse Cosla’s statement for additional funding to tackle the climate emergency.

12.    Discretionary Fuel Support Fund
There is circulated Report No. HC/36/21 dated 25 November 2021 by the Executive Chief Officer Resources and Finance.

The Council is invited to note:-  

(i)    the Scottish Government has made available £25m flexible funding to local authorities for the purposes of providing support for residents in respect of winter 2021/22. The Council’s allocation from the Scottish Government is confirmed at £1.019m. Further information about the Scottish Government’s Winter Support Fund is provided in Section 7 of the report; 
(ii)    local authorities are being guided to adopt intersectional and wellbeing approaches when deciding how to support residents this winter.  This includes helping to alleviate overlapping disadvantage and to support marginalised groups, those experiencing homelessness – including those with no recourse to public funds, assistance with housing costs and other essential items; 
(iii)    local authorities should consider cash-first approaches but have discretion to consider other appropriate methods of provision.  A cash-first approach means making payments of money to eligible residents by bank transfer and other means; 
(iv)    the Scottish Government’s guidance includes that local authorities may want to consider providing financial assistance to households at risk of self-disconnecting due to financial hardship, ie when a household stops using gas/electricity/energy entirely due to affordability. This may apply where a household pays in advance for energy – such as pre-payment meter users and those reliant on physical fuel deliveries, eg oil and LPG users. Consideration should also be given to households who are at risk of self-rationing their energy due to financial hardship, ie limiting energy use to less than is required to meet their needs in an effort to save money or prevent unmanageable debt.  This may apply regardless of fuel type or payment method; and
(v)    it is anticipated that £0.020m will be required from this fund for the provision of housing for those with no recourse to public funds. 
And, agree:
(i)    to make a one-off non-repayable payment of £180 per household to all Highland residents in receipt of means-tested council tax reduction as at 30 November 2021. At the time of writing this report, 16,440 council taxpayers were receiving council tax reduction and while there will be some movement in the number of households that will be eligible as at 30 November 2021, it is not anticipated to be significant; 
(ii)    that a budget of £2.960m be provided for this purpose comprising £0.999m from the Winter Support Fund, with the required balance being drawn from the Council’s reserves; 
(iii)    for payments to be made to those eligible for a discretionary fuel support payment by March 2022; and
(iv)    that £0.020m be allocated from the £1.019m Winter Support Fund in anticipation of the costs associated with housing those with no recourse to public funds. 

13. Redesign Board – Property Asset Rationalisation
Cuibhreannachadh So-mhaoin Seilbhe

There is circulated Report No. HC/37/21 dated 9 November 2021 by the Executive Chief Officer Property and Housing. 

In this regard, there are also circulated for approval Minutes of Meeting of the Redesign Board held on 8 November 2021.

The Council is invited to consider and approve:- 

(i)    the list of offices in scope for review and potential rationalisation as set out in Appendix 1 of the report; and 
(ii)    the strategic approach to the review and rationalisation of the Council’s Office Portfolio as set out in the report.

14. Highland Council Local Government Elections – 5 May 2022
Taghadh Chomhairle na Gàidhealtachd 2022

There is circulated Report No. HC/38/21 dated 21 November 2021 by the Chief Executive/Returning Officer.

The Council is invited to agree:-

(i)    the resources required by the Returning Officer to run the Local Government Election 2022 for Highland Council; 
(ii)    to budget for the local government elections in 2027 on an annual recurring basis and to hold this in earmarked reserves, as has been the case in previous years; and 
(iii)    that the Returning Officer continues to be entitled to make amendments to polling places of the Council approved Polling Scheme of 2019, outside the compulsory review period.

15. Review of UK Parliamentary Constituencies: Initial Proposals
Co-chomhairle mu Ath-sgrùdadh air Crìochan Roinnean-taghaidh Pàrlamaideach na RA

There is circulated Report No. HC/39/21 dated 9 November 2021 by the Executive Chief Officer Performance and Governance.

The Council is invited to consider the proposals and agree a response to the Boundary Commission for Scotland.  

16. Scottish Government Education Reform Consultation – Highland Council Response    
Co-chomhairle – Ath-sgrùdadh air Ùghdarras Theisteanasan na h-Alba agus Foghlam Alba 

There is circulated Report No. HC/40/21 dated 30 November 2021 by the Executive Chief Officer Education and Learning.

The Council is invited to:- 

(i)    note the approach taken to incorporate stakeholder input into the Council’s response; and 
(ii)    agree to homologate the Council’s submission at Appendix 1 of the report.

17. Chief Social Work Officer Report: 2020/21
Aithisg Àrd-Oifigear Obrach Sòisealta

There is circulated Report No. HC/41/21 dated 9 November 2021 by the Executive Chief Officer Health and Social Care. 

The Council is invited to note and comment on the issues raised in the annual report and the implications for social work and social care services within Highland Council and NHS Highland.

18. Highland Armed Forces Community Covenant Update
Aithisg Bhliadhnail – Com-pàirteachas Cùmhnant nam Feachdan Armaichte

There is circulated Report No. HC/42/21 dated 12 November 2021 by the Executive Chief Officer Communities and Place.

The Council is invited to note:- 

(i)    the considerable progress made with partners across a range of activities which support the Armed Forces Community Covenant;
(ii)    the creation of a specific Council Armed Forces Reservist Policy;
(iii)    the Council’s achievement in being awarded the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award;
(iv)    the introduction of external funding to help Community Planning Partnerships to strengthen their relationship with their Armed Forces communities; and 
(v)    the introduction of the Armed Forces Bill which will establish the Covenant requirements in statute.

19. High Life Highland 
High Life na Gàidhealtachd

Following the resignation of Mr B Thompson, the Council is asked to agree the appointment of a new Director for High Life Highland.

20. Timetable of Meetings 2022                                                                   
Clàr-ama Choinneamhan 2022

The Council is asked to agree the following – Sutherland County Committee meeting to be changed from 21 February to 28 February 2022. 

21. 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 28 October 2021 is available on the Council’s Website.