Highland Council prepares for phased return to new normal
21st May 2020
Highland Council's Recovery Board Chair, Cllr Alasdair Christie has welcomed the publication of the Scottish Government's road map phasing the way out of lockdown, which was published earlier today.
The First Minister revealed that Phase 1 of the Government's new four phase plan, could come into effect on 28 May, however the advice remains stay home, protect the NHS and save lives for now.
Cllr Alasdair Christie, Chair of the Highland Council's Recovery Board, said: "Highland Council is assessing and planning for all the implications of the First Minister's announcements made today about the first stage relaxation of lockdown, including her statement on teachers and other staff returning during June to prepare for the return to school in August.
"The Recovery Board has already begun developing our own Highland Council route map which is focusing on how we prepare for a safe return to work, return to school and restarting key services, such as reopening recycling centres at the start of June.
"Today’s announcement will I am sure be welcomed by communities here in Highland, who have been adhering to the lockdown measures and ensuring they help protect the NHS and save lives.
"However, we are also acutely aware of the impact the lockdown has had on our economy and on every aspect of people’s lives and mental health.
"We are working hard to map out the best way forward for Highland, so that we can start to get people back to work and school, but to ensure this is done safely and in line with science and the Scottish Government’s guidance."
He added: “Since the outbreak we have learned a lot of lessons and we’ve seen a tremendous demonstration of agility, innovation and hard work from staff across the organisation. I am delighted to say that as a result of everyone’s hard work and commitment we are now in a position to pave the way forward and start getting back to what will be a new normal for all of us."
Schools will return on 11 August, one week earlier than planned for most pupils, while Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings will open over the summer.
An agreement reached between councils, professional associations and parent representatives means:
schools will implement physical distancing measures, such as providing seating that is two metres apart and staggering arrival, departure and break times
increased hand-washing or use of hand sanitisers, enhanced cleaning, robust protocols and ongoing risk assessments
class sizes will be significantly reduced as a result of the new way of working, with most pupils spending around half their time in class and half learning at home. Time in school will increase further as soon as it is safe to do so
teachers and other education staff will return in June - subject to appropriate safety assessments being completed - to prepare and plan for the new way of working and welcoming pupils back
existing ‘hubs’ will continue to run to provide vulnerable children and those of key workers with childcare over the summer
the school estate will be expanded where necessary and possible to increase the time children can spend with their teachers
innovative use will be made of existing teachers and staff
The Scottish Government road map can be found HERE
The Highland Council can now confirm which of the Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC) across the region will re-open from Monday 1st June 2020. A phased approach to re-opening the sites will be adopted with strict controls in place to help manage social distancing and to ensure the anticipated high number of visitors and volume of waste can be handled safely and efficiently.
The Highland Council's Housing Service currently operates an annual garden aid scheme, cutting grass in approximately 1,300 council house gardens. The Garden Aid service is for older or disabled tenants who don't have anyone to help them cut their grass.
Following an ambitious bid by Highland Council supported by NHS Highland, to deliver rapid active travel interventions in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, The Highland Council has been awarded £752,954 from the Scottish Government's Spaces for People fund, which is administered by Sustrans. Over the coming weeks towns across Highland and the City of Inverness will see a roll-out of temporary walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure along priority routes.
Public assurance is being provided by Highland Council that the organisation is fully transparent and accountable during the COVID-19 emergency response as it publishes decisions made by its group of senior officers - or Gold Group* - under emergency procedures. The list of decisions made since 19 March 2020 is on the Council's website at the following link and will continue to the added to and updated as further decisions are made using emergency procedures.
The COVID-19 small business and self-catering grant scheme, set up to help companies stay in business during the coronavirus crisis, has now paid out £56,286,250 million to 5135 Highland businesses. The Highland Council's Head of Development and Regeneration, Allan Maguire, said: "We now are processing applications and approving payment within days of a business submitting a complete online application form and its accompanying evidence.
The Highland Council is pleased to announce that preparations are well underway for re-opening many of the Household Waste Recycling Centres across the region to the public from Monday 1 June 2020. The sites in Highland, along with all other Scottish Local Authorities, have been closed since the end of March due to the government's Covid-19 restrictions on non-essential travel.
The Highland Council has noted the outcomes at Inverness Sherriff Court this morning regarding Home Farm Care Home on the Isle of Skye. The Sheriff made no decision on the Care Inspectorate's application to suspend registration but has adjourned the matter until 10 June 2020 on the basis that the collaborative approach being taken will continue to be monitored.
The Highland Council would like to remind Garden Waste Collection Service permit holders that the service resumed last Monday (11th May 2020) after being suspended due to the impact of COVID-19 on staff resources. Carron McDiarmid, Executive Chief Officer for Communities and Place said: "Feedback from our crews from the first week of collections is that the quality of the material collected from the brown bins was excellent with very little contamination which is really positive and I would like to thank the public for making a concerted effort to ensure that only the correct material was put into their bins.
The COVID-19 small business and self-catering grant scheme, set up to help companies stay in business during the coronavirus crisis, has now paid out £48.9m million to 4359 Highland businesses. This now includes payments to owners of multiple premises following the expansion of the scheme on 5th May 2020.
A Highland Council Recovery Board has been established to lead and plan the Council's emergence from lockdown and provide strategic coordination for a Recovery Action Plan for Council services. The Board will also provide oversight and direction for the Council's partnership with communities and partners to support the Highland Region’s return to wellbeing, prosperity and economic success.
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