Agendas, reports and minutes

Highland Council

Date: Thursday, 8 December 2022

Agenda: Read the Supplementary Agenda

In relation to the agenda and papers circulated for the above Meeting of the Highland Council, please find the undernoted:-
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:-

*Education Committee    23 November 2022

*Starred Item 12 - Review of the statutory consultation exercise on the establishment of Gaelic Medium catchment areas for Plockton and Lochcarron Primary Schools - The Committee AGREED TO RECOMMEND to the Council the creation of Gaelic Medium catchment areas for Plockton Primary School and Lochcarron Primary School on the basis set out at paragraph 1.2 of the report.
City of Inverness Area Committee - 24 November 2022
Audit and Scrutiny Committee - 30 November 2022
Corporate Resources Committee - 1 December 2022

6. Question Time                                                                            
Àm Ceiste

There are circulated Responses to the Questions on the Council Agenda which it was indicated would follow –

(1) Mr A Christie

To the Leader of the Council

“Please could the Leader summarise the key findings and recommendations contained in the document  “Report of a joint inspection of services for children and young people at risk of harm in Highland” which was prepared by the Care Inspectorate in partnership with Education Scotland, Healthcare Improvement Scotland and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland and how any required improvements will be taken forward.”

The Joint Inspection Report has not yet been received. As such, I am unable to comment further.

(2) Mr A Christie

To the Leader of the Council

“In light of the unprecedented projected 2023/24 budget gap of £40m+ please could the Leader detail as to what events are planned by the Administration in 2023 with regard to engaging with communities, Unions, Council staff, councillors, third sector organisations, parent councils, general public and vulnerable adult social care service users to receive observations on the budget in the lead up to the Special Budget Meeting of Council in March 2023?”

The engagement process for developing the Council’s budget is an ongoing process. There has been engagement with staff as part of the programme development which has also heard from staff about ideas for savings, redesign and income generation. Engagement with the Unions on the budget is ongoing and there are specific budget sessions planned.
Engagement with the wider public on the programme has helped to inform priorities however, as specific proposals are developed, there will be direct engagement with key groups that may be affected.  This includes staff, third sector groups and communities of interest.
As stated at the Corporate Resources meeting, the work on the budget with specific reference to the budget gap is challenging and, as can be appreciated, is taking time to address. An egagement session with members of the Administration was held last week. Once there is some definition in respect of tackling the forecast budget deficit, we will be happy to offer opportunities for other groups and individual members to let us know their thoughts and contributions.

(3) Mr A Jarvie

To the Leader of the Council

“With it becoming increasingly unlikely the Council will meet its agreement to reach net zero by 2025, will your Administration make a statement that it shall not be meeting the commitment you voted for in the last Council term?”

To date the Council has not set a target for achieving net zero.
The Carbon Clever Declaration (2012) stated: “We are committed to a carbon neutral Inverness and a low carbon Highlands by 2025.” This is the only reference to a proposed date of 2025.
In May 2019 The Highland Council declared a climate and ecological emergency and agreed that the Council would establish a Climate Change Panel reporting directly to full Council.
As the understanding of the Climate emergency has evolved the focus moved from carbon neutrality to the considerably more ambitious need for achieving net zero.
In alignment with national targets in December 2021 the Council agreed to the development of a Council-wide net zero strategy. The development of this strategy is currently being undertaken across all Council Services and there will be a Member seminar in February 2023 to develop this further which will also look at action planning and the setting of targets for Net Zero. 
The national route map to net zero has been developed through a number of incremental sector specific targets which culminates in a net zero Scotland in 2045.

(4) Mr M Reiss

To the Chair of Corporate Resources

“What provisional financing arrangements are being considered for the replacement of “A” Block at Thurso High School, following the unexpected closure of the building on the receipt of an independent structural survey/assessment in October 2022?”

Temporary modular units are in the process of being installed at Thurso High an approximate cost of £50,000. This will provide the minimum accommodation required in the short term to replace the classrooms in Block A that cannot be accessed and is an interim measure until more substantial modular units can be procured and installed. 
An exercise is underway to establish what units are currently available from modular suppliers and to assess their suitability. A concurrent exercise is being carried out to evaluate the relative costs and timescales of fabricating and installing new units in the event that suitable accommodation is not readily available from suppliers.
Design work for the stabilisation of Block A is underway along with structural surveys of the remaining buildings at Thurso High. Potential longer-term options will be considered once all of this work has been completed and the survey reports received, which is likely to be by the end of January.

(5) Mr D Gregg

To the Leader

“I have been contacted by local residents who have been waiting four years for ADHD and other neurodiversity assessments, and are now paying four figures for private assessments. Can the council provide the current number of children waiting for ADHD assessments and the average waiting time for assessment, by geographical area across the council?”

Neurodevelopmental Assessments are undertaken by the NHS because conditions like ADHD require identification by medical practitioners.  The Council is aware of the long waits in NHS Highland for these assessments to be completed but we don’t have figures on the numbers that are waiting, the length of time that they have been waiting, or the geographical area because referrals do not necessarily come through a council source – for example, GPs are able to make these referrals and they do not need to inform the Council that they have done so.

(6) Janet McEwan

To the Leader of the Council

“With regards to Avonlea Children’s Centre, Wick and Thor House, Respite Centre, Thurso can the leader give us the true position in respect of both these facilities?  As I am receiving conflicting information from senior staff and residents”.

Answers given are always true. Work is currently ongoing regarding the assessment of needs within Caithness in terms of service delivery. This includes children’s houses, respite and supported accommodation.

(7) Alex Graham

To the Leader of the Council

“How many properties does Highland Council own in the City of Inverness, excluding schools and council houses?”

In the City of Inverness Committee Area there is currently recorded on the Councils Property Database (excluding Schools and HRA Housing properties) 331 sites, of which 110 are recorded as having buildings on them.

(8) Angela MacLean

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

“Can the chair confirm that Highland Council have a suitable compliment of trained Practice Leads and social workers in each Highland Area to run an effective Service. If there are some vacancies that these will be advertised as soon as possible and not delayed by the job freeze?”     

There has been significant activity going on (particularly within Children’s Services) with regard to staffing complement; caseloads; supervision ratios; vacancies; agency staff; etc. This enables us to get a clear understanding of pressure areas resulting from business activity and highlights areas that need mitigating actions.
Social work posts are signed off as exempt from the recruitment board process. I can advise that business partners are actively working on making this process faster and slicker to ensure that there is no hold up in releasing posts for advert.

7. Notices of Motion 
Brathan Gluasaid            
In accordance with Standing Order 12, there is circulated a factual assessment completed by the Chief Financial Officer.

21. Highland Armed Forces Community Covenant Update
Cunntas às Ùr mu Chùmhnant Coimhearsnachd Feachdan Armaichte na Gàidhealtachd

There is Re-circulated Report No. HC/51/22 by the Executive Chief Officer Communities and Place. (Appendix missing from original report)

The Council is invited to:

i.  note the considerable progress made with partners across a range of activities which support the Armed Forces Community Covenant; and
ii. agree to the appointment of Councillor Leslie-Anne Niven as Armed Forces and Veterans’ Champion on an interim basis.

Urgent Additional Item

In terms of Standing Order 8, the Convenor has agreed that the following be taken as an additional urgent item:-

Recruitment Process for Chief Executive            
Pròiseas Fastaidh airson Àrd-Oifigear

There is circulated Report No HC/52/22 dated 6 December 2022 by the Head of People.

The Committee is invited to agree:-

i.   the Appointments Panel and recruitment process as detailed in paragraphs 5.1 of the report;
ii.  consideration of all administrative issues related to the recruitment should be delegated to the Appointments Panel;
iii. that external advisers should be used set out in paragraph 6.1 and 7.1 of the report and the extent of this involvement should be approved by the Appointments Panel and not exceed £20k; 
iv.  the arrangements for appointing an interim Chief Executive

and note:-

v. the salary is £159,499 with the 2022/23 pay award pending.

Yours faithfully

Stewart Fraser
Head of Corporate Governance