Good progress being made by Highland Council on recovery from COVID-19
3rd August 2020
Members were today asked to note the good progress being made in relation to the local authority's Recovery Action Plan despite the significant challenges faced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report highlighted that important work on the 11 key priorities continues at pace. One such priority "Lockdown Agility" includes a focus on the Council's arrangements for managing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) supplies which is particularly important as plans are being made for pupils and staff return to schools and other workplaces. The report confirms that the Council meets Scottish Government’s PPE directions by deploying a stepped protection process.
The significant amount and scope of work that has been carried out during Phase 1 of the Plan, to the end of June 2020, was warmly welcomed at today’s meeting. Members were advised that, of the 11 Phase 1 key priorities, 50 actions have been completed or are ongoing, and 8 show some signs of slippage.
Completed actions during this initial Phase are wide and varied. These include work in significant areas such as running virtual committee meetings and making these available online for public access, supporting the recovery of the Highland economy, and developing a financial recovery strategy for the Council. Transforming the Council’s IT provision for staff and Elected Members; redesigning the way in which services are delivered for, and accessed by, customers; and ensuring the Council’s workforce has the appropriate skills and agility are also being progressed and demonstrate the significance of the work involved.
Actions which are ongoing and on track include lockdown agility (incl. schools re-opening); empowering communities; and digital transformation including working with partners to deliver a digitally capable region. Also leadership, culture and performance within the Council are being progressed as is the management of the Council’s property estate.
Depute Leader of The Highland Council, Cllr Alasdair Christie who chairs the Council’s Recovery Board said: "Work on all aspects of Recovery is continuing, despite significant ongoing challenges to adapt our plans to keep pace with emerging guidance and new parameters. We also need to maintain the ability and the agility to respond to any new outbreaks of the virus and the related uncertainties ahead."
He added: “This is the perfect time to build on the very valuable contribution communities continue to make across the Highlands as a result of Covid-19, and to strengthen collaboration with our business leaders and other Highland agencies to rebuild confidence and grow the Highland economy.”
Highland Councillors have commended the Council's ongoing efforts to reduce carbon consumption over the past year. Members have welcomed the information that the Council has saved over 6,000 tonnes of carbon this year.
Virtual education in Highland - Supportive, Interactive, Engaging. The Highland Council can support and deliver education to any pupils who are asked to self-isolate by the Health Protection Team, in all of our 203 schools across the region.
Young people at school are the winners as a result of discussions between High Life Highland and The Highland Council that will see the Charity's staff phased back into schools after the October break. Speaking about the arrangement, High Life Highland Chairman, Ian Ross said, "I am delighted that once again our partnership working arrangements with colleagues in The Highland Council mean that High Life Highland staff will be able to recommence their work with young people during the school day and within school buildings.
The Highland Council is calling on the UK Government to help resolve the inequity of fuel poverty experienced in the Highlands of Scotland where people pay more for fuel and energy than other regions in the UK. Leader of The Highland Council, Cllr Margaret Davidson has written to the UK Government's Minister of State (Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth) The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP calling on the government to replace the current electricity distribution system with one that replicates that of gas and telecoms and share the cost of energy distribution equally across the UK.
To mark Scotland's Climate Week for 2020, which runs from today until the 20th September, The Highland Council has organised a range of virtual events to share information and seek views from Highland residents and Council employees on climate related topics. Whilst the circumstances for Climate Week 2020 are very different to previous years, it still provides an important opportunity for organisations and communities to celebrate and showcase what they are doing to tackle climate change.
Highland residents are being warned that letters claiming they have won a share of £425,000 in a ‘postcode lottery' is a scam. The letters appear to be targeting the Skye area but are likely to be sent to various addresses across the Highland area.
Fiona Malcolm, has been appointed by The Highland Council as Interim Executive Chief Officer with immediate effect for Health and Social Care, pending recruitment of the permanent ECO post which is currently taking place. A qualified solicitor, Fiona has worked within the legislative and policy frameworks in place for both children's care and adult social care since joining The Highland Council in 2001.
Communities in The Highland Council area are to benefit from Crown Estates funding to be disbursed by the local authority. Councillors have agreed a funding distribution model to enable the disbursement of over £3million Crown Estates funds across the region.
Council today agreed an urgent motion by Cllrs Margaret Davidson, Andrew Jarvie, Alasdair Christie and Jimmy Gray with a call for more detailed local information sharing on Covid-19 for members in local government. The motion is as follows: "Throughout the pandemic we have received information on national and Highland wide numbers infected with Covid 19.
At the meeting on 9 September 2020 of the Council's Housing and Property Committee, Officers confirmed that house building targets will be met despite lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Chair of the committee, Cllr Ben Thompson, said: "I am delighted that we are able to continue to meet our targets for the Council house building programme.