Video Explains The Impact Of Covid-19 On Highland Council
7th June 2020
Highland Council has created a video to explain some of the impacts of COVID-19 on communities and on the Council.
Leader of the Council, Margaret Davidson said: "The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on many individuals, businesses and communities across Highland. There have been tragic losses in so many ways - loss of loved ones, loss of the company and contact of family and friends, loss of income or jobs and loss of a way of life.
"Many people have found themselves vulnerable, perhaps for the first time ever, and in need of financial assistance, advice and even basic necessities such as food.
“Our staff, our partners, the voluntary sector and communities have been providing a tremendous response to some of the immediate challenges, providing support to the most vulnerable. We have all had to adapt to different ways of working and indeed socialising and learning new skills."
She added, “The pandemic has highlighted our complete reliance on good broadband across the Highlands. Our ICT staff have worked tirelessly to extend our internal network to meet demand, however it is the inadequate quality of the external infrastructure across the Highlands which is holding back our remoter communities and businesses. This will require to be a key focus, along with UK and Scottish Government, going forward in the new world we find ourselves in."
Budget Leader, Councillor Alister Mackinnon said: “COVID-19 has impacted significantly on the Council. In our response to the needs of our communities, we have had to quickly adapt to provide new services, including the Humanitarian Assistance Centres, the Helpline, food projects, hardship and welfare projects, business grants, childcare for key workers and virtual education. All of this comes at a cost and there is a continued need for may of these new services to be provided, such as child care for key workers over the summer period.
“At the same time, our income has been decimated, and in recent years, we have had to adapt to a reducing budget by a greater reliance on income. One example alone is that the income fell from £200,000 to just £75 in one month for a single car park. Other examples include loss of planning fees, harbour dues and marine fuel sales.
“We have established a budget recovery group to look at ways to mitigate the financial impact, and we have proved that the Council is capable of delivering substantial savings, however the scale of this challenge is huge and the timescale is short.”
Depute Leader and Chair of the Recovery Board, Alasdair Christie added: “It is clear that the impact of COVID-19 will be with us for a very long time. The devastation caused to lives and businesses is still being quantified. We have a long journey to embark to repair the damage caused and our work on recovery has begun, this will run in parallel to a continued response to ensure that we continue to support Highland folk and local businesses as best we can. The Council cannot do everything alone and we working with partners, businesses and communities to protect and grow the economy and ensure individuals and families of the Highlands remain safe and protected.”
The Highland Council is updating parents and carers of its position on early learning and childcare (ELC). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Scottish Government removed the statutory requirement for Local Authorities to deliver 1140 hours of ELC from August.
Following on from the recent publication of Highland Council's Supporting Economic Recovery in Highland - A Guide for Businesses - the Council is announcing relaxation of some controls that will assist tourist accommodation providers have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. In recognition of this where there are specific planning and licensing controls in relation to occupancy, for example: a restriction on the occupancy of any caravan for a continuous 12 month period; or where conditions restrict occupancy for specific periods of time, ...these will be relaxed by the Council up to and including April 2021.
The Caithness Committee met virtual today for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic and it's agenda focused on the actions taken by the Council and the third sector to deal with the effects of Coronavirus in Caithness. The Executive Chief Officer for Education and Learning, Paul Senior, gave members an update on the plans and preparations underway to prepare for the return of pupils and staff to Caithness schools in August.
Margaret Davidson, the Leader of the Highland Council has given her strong support to the efforts of the Scottish Government to obtain greater fiscal flexibility from the UK Government. The Scottish Government have sought flexibility to offset capital underspend against resource expenditure, more flexibility over resource borrowing and greater flexibility over the use of the reserve for capital.
The Highland Council is planning to re-open play areas across the region throughout summer. Advice was provided by the Scottish Government on 28 June as to the safety measures that should be applied.
The Highland Council was one of the first local authorities in Scotland recognised to develop a Schools Digital Learning Hub, which provides a resource for staff, parents and pupils to support home learning. Prior to Covid-19, we had an estate of 27,000 Chromebooks that were already a part of our ICT in Learning Strategy.
Earlier today (Wednesday 1 July 2020) members of The Highland Council's Economy and Infrastructure Committee had the opportunity to discuss (by video conference) progress made with the Corran Ferry Project which is reviewing the options for securing a replacement ferry and considering the way forward for the future operation and management of the service. The Corran ferry service has reached a critical point and strategic decisions need to be made.
As Scotland prepares for the easing of lockdown and the re-opening of the tourism and hospitality sector, The Highland Council's Environmental Health are advising holiday accommodation providers to make sure their private water supplies are safe to drink. A large number of self-catering and tourist accommodation in the Highlands are served by private water supplies and with these being closed during the lockdown period, the water supply system may not have been maintained and could create a risk to the quality and safety of the drinking water.
Lesley, who previously worked for Hackney Local Authority in London, expressed how much she has enjoyed working for the Council. Lelsey started with highland council on 13 August 2019.
Following Scottish Government guidance on returning to construction sites across Scotland, works will be restarting on the EES:ABS scheme across the Highlands. In line with the guidance, contractors will be undertaking phased restarts and adhering to social distancing to allow workers to return to construction sites gradually while using measures such as hand hygiene.