Local priorities under spotlight at Sutherland Committee
At today’s meeting of the Sutherland Committee members took the opportunity to review the list of strategic priorities drawn up last year in order to give more of a voice for Sutherland and its people.
The list of priorities, which was drawn up following a special workshop held last year in Lairg to look closely at key issues, includes a wide range of topics for the council to take forward with local communities and partner organisations as priorities which can be focussed on over the term of the council. These include transport, the coastal environment, economic development, infrastructure, employment, support for fragile communities, education and skills development, promoting engagement with communities and land use.
“Chair of the Committee, Councillor Linda Munro said: “Since we first put forward the list of priorities last year we have had a council election and have new members on our committee so it felt like a good time to review and reaffirm our priorities and our commitment to work collaboratively to move things forward.
“Our priorities are set out in a document entitled “A voice for Sutherland and its People", which is very fitting as we are all clear that our communities need to be at the heart of the work we plan to focus on. Having a clear focus will allow us, with our communities and partner organisations, to concentrate on key agreed areas of work to make sure Sutherland is in the best possible position to thrive socially and economically over the coming years.”
Members discussed the priorities, local issues and the need to incorporate additional priorities including energy, transport, community benefit and entitlement to access basic health services delivered locally and consider how these can be reflected in the Council’s Programme.
Members agreed to write to the Director of Public Health for NHS Highland to raise concerns about access to some basic local health services, such as dentistry in Kinlochbervie.
The Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor Margaret Davidson attended the meeting to discuss with Sutherland Members the new Council Programme and how to best capture their local priorities so they can be reflected in the Programme which will be used to steer the work of the Council over the next five years.
She said: “Due to the wide geographical spread and varied demographics of the Highlands each local area is unique, so coming along today to hear more about issues effecting people living and working in Sutherland has given me a much better feel of the work needed to remove barriers and address problems specific to the area. Having a clear plan of priorities is a good way to concentrate efforts and the Council will do all it can to support local members and the people of Sutherland as they take this forward.”
A voice for Sutherland and its People
Numbering of sections does not indicate relative priority
1) COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT
• Work with other Agencies in the Sutherland Community Partnership to develop Local
Outcome Improvement Plans for designated areas, and to develop a credible methodology
for assessing the needs of Fragile Areas
• Respond timeously and effectively to community organisations’ participation requests
• Actively ensure communities are consulted on proposals to change Council services
• We will continue to support the principle of Participatory Budgeting as resources permit, to
strengthen and empower communities to decide together how public monies should be
2) ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
• Encourage population growth through inward migration and work with partners to develop
measures to discourage outward migration
• Encourage and expand employment opportunities through all forms of economic activity
and business development throughout Sutherland
• Ensure that Highland Council jobs stay in Sutherland and even increase through relocation
• Support & promote communities on the NC500 and other tourist routes in developing
facilities for tourists and local people alike.
• Support communities in developing Sutherland as a branded tourist destination e.g.
genealogy and cultural tourism as well as supporting infrastructures such as “Aires”, touring
caravans and access to beaches and increased provisions of pull off and view point areas.
• Exploit opportunities to develop commercial and marine activities in harbours for the
benefit of local economies.
• Procure goods and services within Sutherland wherever possible and encourage other
agencies to do the same
3) INFRASTRUCTURE AND CONNECTIVITY
• Continue to lobby National providers, Government, HIE and Community Broadband
Scotland to ensure the rollout of broadband to all properties across Sutherland in the
shortest possible (reasonable/practical?) timescale.
• Lobby OFCOM and providers for urgent and extensive improvement to the mobile phone
• Seek to improve the free flow of traffic on single track roads in Sutherland by increasing size
of passing places and road widening
• Work with HI trans and forestry operators to transfer timber movement to road to rail in
order to protect vulnerable peat roads from collapse
• Recognise the importance of Community Transport in fragile areas by
o Lobbying to secure long-term funding for Community Transport operators
o Removing cost from community transport groups by continuing to support ticketing
• Lobby for improvement to the Far North rail line to reduce travel time and increase
reliability, whilst ensuring the retention of the existing commuter rail links to Moray Firth
4) EDUCATION AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT
• Ensure and support development for School Heads and UHI in a coordinated plan for
delivering distance learning and vocational training
• Focus on sectors where Sutherland has specific identifiable needs
• Encourage Partnership working to foster perception that Care & Hospitality sectors offer
careers in their own right
• Encourage “growing our own” and retaining our young people in well paid and respected
5) CARE AND WELLBEING
• Continue to work with Partners to develop and address health & equalities through
Partnership working to improve access to Care & Respite throughout Sutherland
• Continue to work with Partners to improve and develop patient transport throughout
• Continue partnership working to improve Dementia & Disability friendly environments and
foster developments in child care and assisted care for the elderly
• Work with Partners and lobby government in relation to fuel poverty throughout Sutherland
6) LAND USE
• Work with communities and partner agencies to take advantage of powers under land
reform legislation with a view especially to Community Asset Transfers and creation of new
• Promote sustainable Forestry Management and develop Partnership working throughout