Agendas, reports and minutes

Highland Council

Date: Thursday, 27 October 2022

Agenda: Read the Agenda

A meeting of the Highland Council will be held in the Council Chamber, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on Thursday 27 October 2022 at 10.35 am.

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 provide some information on the nature of the interest and leave the meeting at the appropriate time.  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 held on 22 September 2022 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:-    

City of Inverness Area Committee    26 September    
Audit and Scrutiny Committee    28 September    
Education Committee    29 September    
Pensions Committee and Board    30 September    
Minutes of Meetings not included in the Volume are as follows:-           
i.Investment Sub-Committee – for approval – held on 21 October 2022 (to follow); and

ii.Highland and Western Isles Valuation Joint Board – for noting – held on 20 June 2022 (approved by the Board on 23 September 2022) 
5. Membership of Committees, etc
Ballarachd Chomataidhean, msaa

Members are asked to agree the following changes:-

(a) Housing and Property Committee - Ms S Atkin replaces Mr B Lobban on Housing and Property Committee;
(b) Education Committee – Mr A Christie to replace Ms S Rawlings; 
(c) Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Committee – Mrs T Robertson to replace Ms S Rawlings.    
Items  6 and 7  will be considered at 2.00pm    
6. Question Time                                                                            
Àm Ceiste              

The following Questions have been received by the Head of Corporate Governance.
With the exception of the Public Questions, one supplementary question will be allowed in each case which will be answered by the recipient of the original question.    
Public Questions

(i) Ms C MacRae

To the Leader

“Will Highland Council give the PVI sector a fair rate in line with funding they have received from The Scottish Government?

The response will follow.

(ii) Ms N Richards

To the Leader

“What analysis has Highland Council undertaken to assess the impact upon working parents and carers in Highland in the event that ELC partners exit the 1140 hours provision due to failure of Highland Council to agree a mutually acceptable partner rate?”

The response will follow.

Member Questions

(i) Mr A Christie

To the Leader

“By vacant post please could you detail, explain and provide key statistics including the impact on service users for the Health and Social Care and Wellbeing Service as well as the Education Service for pupil support and specialist non-teaching staff in relation to the current situation on staff vacancies?”

The response will follow.

(ii) Mr A Christie

To the Leader

“With regard to the new Council Programme, at the September Council meeting we were informed that the final Programme would come back to Councill for approval on 27th October following engagement with Members, staff and communities. The report to the September Council meeting defined this engagement as sessions with community groups and local engagement visits across Highland localities following September Council and into the first week of October. As at the 13th October I am not aware of any engagement sessions being in place, could the Leader update as to what is actually happening?”

The response will follow.

(iii) Ms J McEwan

To the Leader

“With regard to expenditure on road maintenance could the Leader detail the amounts spent versus original budget differentiating between capital and revenue whilst using the Area Committees as geographic boundaries?”

The response will follow.

(iv) Ms K Willis

To the Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee

“The EV charging network in Highland, although growing, continues to experience operational problems with many EV chargers, both old and new, regularly breaking down and often remaining out of service for extended periods.  How does Council plan to improve maintenance and repair of EV chargers to increase confidence in the EV charging network in Highland?”

The response will follow.

(v) Mr R MacKintosh

To the Chair of the Communities and Place Committee

“In 2019, Council agreed to ban glyphosate use in certain areas (all sports and recreation facilities) and to develop a business case for a complete ban on the use of glyphosate-containing products. Please can you provide an update on progress regarding development of the business case for a complete ban, including data on the quantity of glyphosate containing weed killers purchased and used by Council since January 2020?”

The response will follow.

(vi) Mr R Gale

To the Chair of the Corporate Resources Committee

“Following the Council’s decision on the 22nd of September to prevent Members from having access to printed copies of the papers, can you give details on when a full Display Screen Equipment assessment will be carried out on the desks, chairs, workspace, and lighting in the chamber to ensure that Members’ health does not suffer as a result of prolonged DSE use?”

The response will follow.

(vii) Mr A Graham

To the Leader

“What percentage of all Highland premises have access to the fibre network and what percentage are able to order superfast broadband speeds of 30mbps and above?”

The response will follow.

(viii) Mr M Baird

To the Leader

" Can the Leader confirm that the planned North West Sutherland Care Facility will receive a funding allocation by the Administration for building works to start in line with original projected dates?"

The response will follow.

(ix) Mr C Aitken

To the Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee

"Given the current roll pressures at existing secondary schools in Inverness, can the Chair give the Council a fixed timeline for construction of a new secondary school in the east of Inverness?"

The response will follow.

(x) Ms H Crawford

To the Chair of the Education Committee

“During the Early Years Briefing on 6th October 2022 in Chambers, a slide was presented entitled ELC Budget/Funding. It discloses the ScotGov ringfenced funding for ELC and it discloses the funding allocated to ELC from the Council’s General Budget.
Why has Highland Council reduced the allocation for ELC provision from the General Budget from £15.6 million in 2017/18 to £6.8 million in 2022/23?”

The response will follow.

(xi) Mrs I MacKenzie

To the Chair of the Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Committee

“It has been UK Malnutrition Awareness Week recently.  Malnutrition is a key public health problem that has a significant impact on individuals' health and wellbeing and costs the NHS billions per year. It is often a silent and hidden issue, with low awareness amongst the public and health professionals.  There are 1 in 10 older people who are at risk or have malnutrition in Scotland.  Although we need less food/energy as we age, older people still need a nutrient rich diet. Since the onset of the pandemic this will have had a huge impact on health and social care services and third sector organisations.  What measures can you take to improve this situation?”

The response will follow.

(xii) Mr P Logue

To the Chair of the Education Committee

“Highland Council receives ringfenced funding from the Scottish Government to enable it to fully fund the provision of the Scottish Government’s 1140 early learning and childcare policy. Is it your understanding that this ring-fenced funding is intended to cover the full cost of the implementation of said policy or is it intended to cover the cost of the additional 540 hours element?”

The response will follow.

(xiii) Ms M Nolan

To the Leader

“Will the Leader of the Council confirm that a new campus for Park Primary School will remain a priority in the Administration's Capital Programme in the event that the Highland Council's LEIP bid is unsuccessful?”

The response will follow.

(xiv) Mr A Jarvie

To the Chair of the Education Committee

“What would the budget shortfall be, or how would the Council deliver 1140 hours of childcare on a budget of £5.43 per child an hour?”

The response will follow.

(xv) Mrs A MacLean

To the Chair of the Communities and Place Committee

“At a meeting of The Highland Council on 22 September 2022, Councillors approved the creation of a Highland-wide grant fund of up to £450,000 to help alleviate the cost-of-living crisis for vulnerable households through community-led initiatives.
Third Sector voluntary and community organisations are invited to apply for grants under the value of £10,000.
The Council launched this fund on World Health Day as we recognise the marked impact that the cost-of-living crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and wider global factors are having on everyone’s health. In addition to the provision of food, we are encouraging community groups to use this funding to provide practical solutions that will help protect our vulnerable residents’ physical and mental health. The supports being provided by voluntary and community groups with this grant funding must complete before the end of June 2023 where practicable. Applicants must demonstrate that they will achieve one or more of the following:
•    provide community support initiatives that provide food/activities;
•    enhance existing provision through extending local hours or introducing/increasing food provision;
•    adapt existing provision to meet identified local needs;
•    strengthen or establish food larders or food table provision.
Application forms are available from and should be submitted by email to with applicants encouraged to contact their Ward Manager for advice and guidance in advance of applying as this could help progress applications quickly.
I welcome the introduction of this grant funding as it will make a huge difference to our local communities. However, since its launch there have been a number of questions raised with me that I would seek clarification on which I am unable to find in the online guidelines. Given that Highland Council is committed to the Community Empowerment Act and that decisions should be taken as close as possible to the communities that are affected and that the application is an amended ward discretionary budget form – 
What role with local Councillors have in deciding which of their local community groups are successful in receiving funding?”

The response will follow.

(xvi) Mr J Bruce

To the Chair of the Education Committee

“In the event that the Highland Council is unable to agree a mutually acceptable rate with our ELC partners, what third party dispute resolution provision exists to enable independent, third party arbitration in this matter?”

The response will follow.    
7. Notices of Motion 
Brathan Gluasaid          
The following Notices of Motion have been received by the Head of Corporate Governance –     
(i) “Carers Rights Day is on the 24th November 2022 and aims to ensure carers are aware of their rights, the help and support that is available to them and promote the needs of carers.

This Council meeting notes that:

• Carers – young and old, paid and unpaid whether in receipt of Carers Allowance and Carers Supplement or not do a truly remarkable and vital job. They are an integral part of our Highland community. They deserve our thanks and support, but are far too often forgotten, ignored and unrecognised.
• Carers across the country face big challenges every single day, challenges that have been made even harder by the Covid-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis. Most are having to spend more time looking after loved ones as we emerge from the pandemic and many haven’t been able to take a single break since it started and as a consequence are simply exhausted.
• Life changing events requiring care interventions can happen suddenly with little or no warning. Often the care givers have to reduce their working hours or give up work totally to adapt and cope with competing demands.
• The pressures on young carers can negatively impact on their experiences and outcomes in education, having a lasting effect on their life chances.
• All too often carers are unaware of their entitlement to financial support, a carers’ assessment or break, and the support services available.
• A significant number of full-time unpaid working-age carers in across Highland rely on Carer’s Allowance.
• At just £69.70 a week, Carer’s Allowance is totally inadequate. 
• Many unpaid carers are facing extreme financial hardship brought on by the cost of living crisis. A recent survey by Carers UK found that Just under half (45%) of unpaid carers reported that they are currently unable to manage their monthly expenses and that any further increases in energy bills will negatively affect their own physical and mental health or that of the person they care for. They are often relying on foodbanks to feed themselves and the people they care for.
• The Carers UK survey found that 43% of carers felt that a rise in Carer’s Allowance would help them, given the financial pressures they are facing.

Council resolves to:

• Recognising the importance of embracing the culture and aims of being a Carer Friendly Organisation and Council and undertakes to bring a detailed report to the March meeting of Council on how this can be achieved with support from the Community Planning Partner Organisations.
• Asks the Chief Executive to ensure that Highland Carers are made aware of Carers Rights Day and also made aware of existing support that is available including improving the information available through the council’s own website and other resources.
• Write to the Chancellor requesting an increase Carer’s Allowance and other benefits so they rise in line with current inflation predictions.
• Write to the Scottish Government and UK Government requesting an immediate extension of the Warm Home Discount scheme to ensure that it include carers on the lowest incomes. This would recognise the additional energy costs often faced by unpaid carers and provide targeted support to those most in need.
• That COSLA be lobbied with a view to achieving a campaign to see a rise in the earnings limit for those claiming Carer’s Allowance, so that it is at least equal to 16 hours work at the National Living Wage.”

Signed:     Ron Gunn     Alasdair Christie     Richard Gale     Angela MacLean   David Gregg    Trish Robertson    
(ii) “Energy Crisis

Following the refusal of the Westminster Government to offer any advice to UK residents to help reduce their energy bills, Highland Council;
Regrets that no action is being taken to recoup some of the vast profits being made this year by energy companies;
Notes that the cost of generating renewable energy is the same this year as last year;
Notes that there are more opportunities for households to receive energy advice in Scotland than in England;
Agrees that Highland Council should provide an information campaign over the next four months to advise households of ways of reducing energy bills and to give sources of advice in the Highlands on how to do this, through social media, the press, and information for councillors to disseminate,
And requests that all relevant officers take immediate action to reduce energy use and maximise energy efficiency across the Highland Council buildings estate and report back on progress to Properties and Housing Committee.”

Signed:     Chris Balance          Kate Willis    
(iii) “The new Belford Hospital was opened in 1965; 47 years ago.

In 2006, following the Kerr report, the Belford was designated a ‘Rural General Hospital’. In November 2009 the surgical and medical wards were merged to form a combined assessment unit.
In 2015 the site for a new hospital was purchased by Highland Council. The announcement stated that this “would be the site of a new hospital to replace the crumbling Belford in Fort William which is Scotland’s busiest rural general and the main centre for mountain trauma.”
In 2017 – then Health Secretary Shona Robinson said – “The work on a planned new hospital in Fort William is progressing.”
Recently it was revealed by the Scottish Government that the Belford Hospital is not on the current Capital Programme which takes us up to 2026.

Council recognises:

The period of time that has passed since the idea of a new hospital was first discussed and the discouraging effect this delay may have had on the communities which are relying on this.
The excellent work that has been done by the stakeholder group to deliver a project of this size and importance to the area which will greatly improve health outcomes for all residents.
The only clear way that Lochaber communities can be assured that the hospital is going to become a reality and provide upgraded health facilities is through a clear statement from the Scottish Government.

To progress the project it is agreed that:

Council will write to Scottish Government requesting that the building of the new Belford Hospital is included in the current programme of capital projects. That an update report be provided at an early meeting of the Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Committee.”

Signed:     John Grafton          Ron Gunn    
(iv) “The A9 north is the main arterial route to and from Caithness. In recent weeks there have been two consecutive days when the road between Brora and Helmsdale has been closed for more than 6 hours due to life threatening accidents. This stretch of road consists of many blind bends and a narrow bridge that cannot accommodate two commercial vehicles and as such has a high accident rate.

To be clear, the closing of this road results in the virtual isolation of the north from Helmsdale to Wick, Thurso and indeed Orkney as there are no practical means of diversion. The result is that essential services cannot reach their destinations in either direction.
The A9, Scotland’s second most dangerous road and part of the NC 500, is very busy with tourists and locals.
There are over 6000 appointments in Raigmore for Caithness residents each year, which is an average of 24 appointments per day and in this scenario that equates to 48 people who could not attend their appointment, many of which may have involved a wait of more than a year to get.
The Scottish Ambulance Service have over 500 patient transfers a year between Wick and Inverness. That’s more than one trip a day and these are patients who need transportation in an Ambulance often requiring a ‘blue light’ journey.
Wick has a CMU (maternity unit) but very few mothers give birth there with over 90% of mothers having to travel to Inverness or further to give birth. Last year alone 170 mothers had to travel to Inverness and 5 further afield. The majority, over 60%, have to travel south in a private car as very few go by Ambulance. As a result, any delay could have serious consequences for a woman in labour, as they could be forced to give birth at the side of the road with no medical support.
Given that this vital link is prone to disruption at any time and that Transport Scotland have allocated zero funding for improving this section of road, the Leader of this Council will write to and arrange meetings with Transport Scotland and Scottish Government Transport Ministers and press them to commit to an urgent upgrade of the road between Brora and Helmsdale as a matter of priority.”

Signed:     Richard Gale          Matthew Reiss          Ron Gunn    
8. Financial Crisis – Valuing Partners Through Collective Budget Strategies, Redesign and Co-production
Èiginn Ionmhasail – A’ Cur Luach air Com-pàirtichean tro Ro-innleachdan Buidseit, Ath-dhealbhadh is Co-sholarachadh Coitcheann

There is circulated Report No. HC/36/22 dated 17 October 2022 by the Chief Executive.The Council is invited to note:-
• that the Council’s grant funding settlement from the Scottish Government is unlikely to be known before December 2022;
• that the pay awards for 2022/2023 are not concluded and the associated financial pressure unknown; 
• the ELC budget position set out in 4.6;
• that further engagement with the ELC Sector will continue, and that further recommendations relating to the ELC funding rate for the 2023/24 financial year will be considered as part of the Council’s budget for next year;
• the steps HLH are taking to mitigate their in-year and ongoing budget pressures;
• the work to be taken forward in partnership with HLH in relation to redesign and contract review (this includes legal involvement); 
• the work completed by Eden Court to mitigate in year pressures in light of the financial crisis and the consequential impact on their income (Appendix 2);
• that Council officers will be reviewing all payments to external providers – whether grants, procured or commissioned services – with the Council’s ongoing financial sustainability in mind;
and agree:-
i.    the principles for partnership working set out in para 1.3;
ii.   in the light of budget uncertainty and the potential impact on all aspects of the Council’s operations, whether delivered internally, externally or arms’ length, recurring funding commitments should be avoided in advance of the budget setting meeting of the Council in March 2023;
iii.  one-off support funding for ELC Partners in the current financial year based on the payment of an additional funding amount calculated as 32p per hour for 3-5 year old provision, and 53p per hour for 2 year old provision;
iv.   for the additional ELC payment to apply from either August 2022 or October 2022, at a cost of £240,000 or £365,000 respectively;
v.    to conclude the current review of ELC partner rate funding for August 2022;
vi.   recommendations will be considered by the Council in March 2023 relating to ELC funding for 2023/24;
vii.  a review of ELC re-design to be taken forward, with further reports back to Education Committee in February 2023;
viii. to increase the Council’s earmarked balance held to support HLH by £0.4m to £1.4m.  This funding to be drawn down at financial year end to ensure HLH avoid entering a negative reserves position and provide assurance that they can implement the SJC pay award for HLH own staff in the current year;
ix.   that work will be taken forward in partnership with HLH in relation to redesign and contract review (this includes legal involvement); and
x.    that redesign work will move forward at a pace regarding Adult Social Care and be reported in detail at an exceptional JMC Committee in November 2022.

9. Capital Programme Update 
Cunntas às Ùr mun Phrògram Chalpa

There is circulated Report No. HC/37/22 dated 17 October 2022 by the Chief Executive.
The Council is invited to note:-
i.   the progress with the review of the Capital Programme;
ii.  the challenges affecting the affordability and delivery of capital projects;
iii. the impact of rising interest rates on the cost of funding capital spend;
iv.  the future revenue budget pressures of funding capital spend; 
v.   the ongoing risks within the Capital Programme; and
to agree:-
vi.  that the capital programme is brought back to December Council meeting following a full review.    
10. Highland Council Programme - Progress Report
Aithisg Adhartais mu Phrògram na Comhairle

There is circulated Report No. HC/38/22 dated 12 October 2022 by the Acting Depute Chief Executive.
The Council is invited to note:-
i.   the approach and work to date in developing the Programme;
ii.  the next steps including the ongoing programme of engagement;
iii. that the final Programme will come forward to Council for approval on 8 December 2022; and
iv.  that the Corporate Plan will also come forward to Council for approval on 8 December 2022, and Directorate Service Plans will be updated thereafter, aligning outcomes with the Programme priorities.    
11. People Strategy
Ro-innleachd Dhaoine     

There is circulated Report No. HC/39/22 dated 17 October 2022 by the Acting Depute Chief Executive
The Council is invited to:-

i. approve the People Strategy as contained in Appendix 1; and
ii. agree the approach and immediate priorities and focus for People Services in sections 4.2 and 5 of this report.  
12. Review of Scheme of Delegation
Ath-sgrùdadh dhen Sgeama Thiomnaidh    

There is circulated Report No. HC/40/22 dated 13 October 2022 by the Acting Depute Chief Executive and Executive Chief officer, Performance and Governance.
The Council is invited to agree:-
i.  the changes to the Scheme of Delegation as detailed in Appendix 1 and 2 of the report; and
ii. that amendments to post titles can continue to be made without recourse to Council as long as the level of delegation remains unchanged; and
to note:-
that page references will be updated once the substantive changes to the Scheme have been approved.    
13. Member Attendance at Meetings
Làthaireachd Bhall aig Coinneamhan

The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 requires that if a Member of a Local Authority fails, throughout a period of six consecutive months, to attend any meeting of the Authority, they shall, unless the failure was due to some reason approved by the Authority, cease to be a Member of that Authority.
Members are asked to approve Ms S Rawlings’ ongoing absence as a result of illness on the basis that the position will continue to be reviewed and an update provided for the Council meeting on 9 March 2023.
14. Deeds Executed
Sgrìobhainnean Lagha a Bhuilicheadh

There is circulated for noting a list of deeds and other documents executed on behalf of the Council since the meeting held on 22 September 2022.