Agendas, reports and minutes

Highland Council

Date: Thursday, 29 June 2023

Agenda: Read Supplementary Agenda

The Highland Council: Thursday 29 June 2023

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

Agenda Item 4

Minutes of Meetings of Committee
Geàrr-chunntasan Choinneamhan Chomataidhean

There are submitted the following Minutes which it was indicated would follow –

i. Isle of Skye and Raasay Committee (Special Meeting),26 June 2023 

and those not included in the Volume –

ii.  Investment Sub Committee – for noting – held on 16 March 2023 (approved by the Sub Committee on 22 June 2023);
iii. Highland and Western Isles Valuation Joint Board – for noting – held on 21 March 2023 (approved by the Board on 22 June 2023); and
iv.  Chief Executive Recruitment Panel held on 21 June 2023.

Agenda Item 5

Question Time
Àm Ceiste

There are circulated Responses to the Questions which were indicated would follow. 
Public Questions
Ceistean Poblach

(1) Ms J Bisset   

To the Leader of the Council  

Following the lack of any acknowledgement from The Highland Council to recent correspondence raising serious concerns around numerous significant and longstanding defects in Fortrose Academy buildings, I would like to ask if I should interpret this silence as recognition that The Highland Council places little value on the safety and wellbeing of the Fortrose School population and is incapable of delivering an appropriate action plan to address valid concerns?

The Council considers its responsibilities of utmost importance in respect of safety and wellbeing. As a direct consequence of concerns raised, the Executive Chief Officer for Property and Housing and members of the council’s Estates Team visited the school to review the issues. These were discussed with the Head Teacher and a parent council representative. Works have been undertaken at the school in recent years and further works are due to be completed during the school holidays.

A targeted condition survey was also commissioned as a consequence of concerns raised. This has just been received, and this will identify what further remedial works are required and over what timeframe. Engagement will continue with the school on next steps.

(2) Ms R Wright

To the Chair of Education 

I am proud of being a Fortrose Academy pupil but it doesn't seem fair that most other Secondary Schools have much better facilities. How will the Highland Council rectify this? 

Fortrose Academy has received investment for the library, theatre and associated areas, and these facilities are still in good condition.  However, like many schools in Highland, there are other parts of the school that require updating.  Decisions on past investment and the future capital programme are for the whole Council to make and a review of the capital programme will be considered by Members later in the year. 

Member Questions
Ceistean Bhall

(1) Mr A Christie

To the Leader of the Council 

Please could the Leader inform me of all vacant positions within the Council establishment by service directorate preferably in a tabular format including the date the position became vacant.

The Council does not hold that information corporately.     

(2) Mr A Christie

To the Leader of the Council 

With the exception of staff based at schools and depots, please could the leader detail by department within each of the service directorates (e.g. Housing Development, Planning Environment & Building Standards, Housing Supervision and Management, Homelessness, Adult Services, Looked After Children, Family Teams etc ) the percentage calculation for staff which will show the proportion of time worked from home contrasted to the time worked from an office?

It is not possible to provide this not all staff have an office base.  Many staff split their time between a variety of locations.  Working patterns are a matter for managers and their teams, based on a variety of factors such as the type of work involved, the size and composition of the team and the geographic areas covered. They will also flex according to workload, workforce, and day to day prioritisation.  

(3) Mr A Graham 

To the Leader of the Council

Facilities Management Service for schools: please provide number of staff employed by the Council (Full Time Equivalent) and number (FTE) provided by staff agencies and contractors, at 31 March 2023 or a more recent date if available.

The number of Facilities Management Service staff employed by the Council as at 23rd June 2023 is 92.64 F.T.E. The number of staff provided by staff agencies and contractors as at 23rd June 2023 is 0 F.T.E.  

(4) Mr M Baird

To the Chair of Economy and Infrastructure  

What is the timetable for rolling out the Scottish Governments 20 MPH speed limits in Highland towns and villages?

Work continues at a pace with the introduction of Transport Scotland funded 20mph speed limits around our council area. The team delivering the project have completed the assessments, signage plans and scheme extents for all 123 settlements included in the project. The single Temporary Road Traffic Regulation Order detailing every single street in the Highland Council Area included in this project has also now been completed. The procurement for the signage has been completed, contract awarded, and the signs are currently in manufacture. To date the signs have been delivered to the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross and Cromarty Areas with all other areas to follow. At present all work is being delivered in-house and is scheduled to begin on the ground in July with completion by late summer.

(5) Mrs T Robertson

To the Leader of the Council  

The 2023 School role forecast published in February shows significant pressure on capacity in Croy Primary School. The pressure continues to increase throughout the period quoted.  The Croy school site has limited space for expansion. When can we expect work to begin on the design of the new school which will should give an indication of a completion date?
There is no provision in the Council’s current capital programme for a new build school at Croy.

(6) Mr D Gregg

To the Chair of Economy and Infrastructure 
Residents in the Crown area have been asking to hold a play street later this year to make it easier for their children to play outside on the road. They have been told they need to pay hundreds of pounds for professional traffic management scheme, which is both unaffordable for my residents and massively out of proportion with what other councils around the UK charge for these schemes.

Will the council introduce a process to allow residents to apply for play streets without such onerous requirements, as has successfully been done in Edinburgh and Glasgow?

Play Street initiatives require a Temporary Traffic Restriction Order (TTRO) and there are a number of factors to consider, before a TTRO can be issued.

  • The impact on traffic (diversion routes, signage etc…)
  • The impact on bus services
  • The impact on emergency services
  • Business deliveries
  • Access for residents
  • Planned works
  • Car parking displacement

There are also costs associated with the production of a TTRO (Staff Time, Advertising, Traffic management…) which can in some cases be substantial. These costs cannot be absorbed within current roads budgets especially if such schemes are sought on a wider and more regular basis. 

I am happy to ask the wider team (Active Travel, Road Safety, Parking Enforcement) to benchmark against the approaches taken in other Council areas in order to ensure that where such schemes are being pursued, the Council takes a proportionate, sustainable and supportive approach that is not out of step with what happens elsewhere in Scotland. 

(7) Mr C Ballance

To the Leader of the Council 

In the wake of the devastating recent wildfires, and the continuing dangers, will the Council take immediate and urgent steps to work with the tourism industry, police and fire services to instigate a campaign of public education about the dangers of lighting fires, using all communication resources available, such as social media, posters, and signs throughout the Highlands, particularly at tourist accommodation and attractions?

The Council is already undertaking steps and will continue to work with partners raising awareness of the dangers of lighting fires, using all communication resources available and in locations that are determined as suitable.

(8) Mr R MacKintosh 

To The Leader of the Council 

Back in September 2022 Council passed a motion agreeing to set up a stakeholder group to review the creative and cultural importance of music and creative arts in all of the Highlands. Can you tell me how many meetings this group has had and when we should expect the result of its findings?

A scoping meeting took place on Tuesday 14thMarch and the next meeting of the group will take place on 17th August. The timing of the result of its findings will be determined by the group.

(9) Mr A Baldrey 

To the Chair of Communities and Place

It is generally agreed that Community Food Growing is a positive activity, not only for the food value itself; the support for people on low incomes; the contribution to community wealth building; and the reduction in “food miles”, but also from the mental health aspect of a communal and outdoor activity that it brings, and provide food for families on low incomes. 

Will your Administration continue to fund the Community Food Officer post after this year and bring a report to Council on their work and successes, and the steps the Council is taking to embed this work across the Council.

A report on the progress against the Community Food Growing Strategy – Growing our Future – was considered at the Communities and Place Committee on 24 May.  This fully details the work and progress against the action plan.  The Food Growing Co-ordinator post was a fixed term post, funded by the Council’s Transformation Fund as part of the Council’s 21/22 budget.  Whilst this post has been essential to develop the strategy and organisational approach to food growing, it is important the approach is embedded throughout the organisation to ensure ongoing delivery of the strategy and associated outcomes, and within financial sustainability. The progress report clearly outlines the work of teams across the organisation to deliver against the action plan.

The Council has already set its budget for this financial year and did so in an environment of significant financial challenges, and the need to use reserves to balance the budget for the year.  In addition to Members at the Communities and Place Committee agreeing the approach, I don't believe it would be prudent to commit additional resources outwith the budget agreed for the year, and in light of the information set out in this response.

(10) Ms K Willis

To the Chair of Economy and Infrastructure 

Is the Council planning to make significant bids to the £58m ScotZEB Phase 2, and the expected extra £45m in the Community Bus Fund in order to work towards building a Council owned pan-Highland wide fleet of different-sized electric buses so as to provide a public service on as many of the routes currently tendered out as is practical.

Initial work has been carried out to identify suitable projects for the SCOTZEB funding rounds, looking at our in-house services, partnership with other operators and in conjunction with other partners such as the Cairngorms National Park Authority and Focus North.

Regarding the Community Bus Fund, the Council’s transport officers have met with Transport Scotland on the topic of the Community Bus Fund, which for this year is £5M capital and £0.75M resource. The terms and distribution of this fund are still under discussion with COSLA so have not yet been announced, but I can confirm that we are very interested in making use of this fund when that is possible.

(11) Mrs H Crawford

To the Chair of Property and Housing  

Parents, carers, teachers and children grapple daily with the reality that the Beauly Primary School building is crumbling, a situation that is replicated across many schools in Highland.

If the application for LEIP funding fails, what is Plan B?

The Review of the Capital Programme will come forward after the recess and it will be for Members of the Council to determine how to allocate funding across a wide variety of capital requirements, including schools.  

(12) Mrs L Saggers

To the Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee 

What legal advice has THC sought with respect to its Short Term Let licensing policy and procedures to ensure that the said policy and procedures are robust and lawful, in light of the recent judgement of the Court of Session regarding the City of Edinburgh’s policy on short term lets?

Highland Council solicitors have carefully assessed the judgement of the Court of Session regarding the City of Edinburgh’s policy on short term lets and are satisfied that there are no direct implications for The Highland Council. The City of Edinburgh policy was found to be unlawful on four specific points, none of which apply to the Highland Council’s own policy.

(13) Mr P Logue 

To the Chair of Economy and Infrastructure 

To ask the Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee to outline the number of charging sessions conducted on Highland Council's public EV charger network and the energy consumed in kWh (broken down by destination and journey chargers) from the period 1 March 2023 to current, compared to the same period in 2022.

I have detailed below the requested information

1st March 2023 – 20th June 2023

Type Sessions Consumption (kWh)
Journey    13,658    274,095
Destination    2,950    51,195
Total    16,608    325,291

1st March 2022 – 20th June 2022

Type Sessions Consumption (kWh)
Journey    11,334    245,424
Destination    1,813    26,671
Total    13,147    272,095

(14) Mr A Jarvie 

To the Chair of Corporate Resources,

In each of the last 5 years, how many of the quarterly year end out-turn projections have been within £1m of the realised outcome?

Looking at each of the net Service monitoring positions, per quarter (Quarters 1, 2 & 3), compared to the out-turn position, over the 5 years in question, shows that 66 of the 117 quarterly monitoring positions have been within £1m of forecasts.

In the vast majority of cases, where out-turn variances have differed from forecasts, the out-turn has represented an improvement versus the forecast position. 

(15) Mr R Stewart  

To the Chair of the Housing and Property:

Given potential cost increases to the Broadford and Nairn Primary Schools, which received LEIP funding in December 2020 can the Member confirm that the Highland Council is still committed and on track to deliver these vital projects by the December 2025 deadline in order to drawdown the revenue funding committed by the Scottish Government in the second phase of the Learning Estate Investment Programme?

That remains our position, however, should it change for any reason, we will provide updates to future meetings of the Council


Notices of Motion
Brathan Gluasaid  

There are circulated Financial Impact Statements from the Head of Corporate Finance in respect of Notices of Motion contained on the agenda. 

Yours faithfully

Stewart Fraser
Head of Legal and Governance