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.”
Enrolment for all ELC providers, including local authority nurseries, partner settings and commissioned childminders, will take place online this year. Enrolment week for ELC places will take place on Monday 8 February to Friday 12 February 2021.
Following discussions at the recent Council meeting, the Council Leader has formally written to the Local Government Boundary Commission on their proposals for councillor numbers and ward boundaries in the Highland Council area. She advised the Boundary Commission that the Council rejected the Commission's proposals in their entirety and formally requested that they halt this process immediately and review the whole issue of remote and rural area boundaries and councillor numbers in consultation with the Highland Council and other local authorities who have mainland councils with inhabited islands.
The Scottish Government has launched a £1,500 grant scheme to assist each individual licensed taxi or private hire driver with their fixed costs including licence plate fees, rental fees and insurance payments for taxis not on the road. The Highland Council's Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Trish Robertson said: "The Highland Council has been asked by the Scottish Government to deliver this grant scheme on their behalf.
Applicants for the Scottish Government's Temporary Business Closure Grant can now apply even if they do not have a formal business bank account. Businesses will now be able to use a personal bank account as evidence, if the account is mainly used for their business banking.
A significant top-up to the grant support available for hospitality, retail and leisure businesses across Scotland closed by level 4 restrictions will be paid following an announcement by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes. In addition to the grants businesses receive through the Strategic Business Framework Fund, eligible businesses will also get a one off grant of.
Members at yesterday's previously adjourned and re-scheduled meeting of Highland Council voted to carry a motion introduced to make adjustments to the agenda in light of the situation in relation to COVID-19 and Brexit. The urgent motion was proposed by Highland Council Leader Cllr Margaret Davidson and supported by the Leader of the official Opposition, Cllr Raymond Bremner.
The Highland Council has issued a letter to all parents providing an update regarding the reopening of schools and early learning and childcare settings following the announcement made yesterday by the First Minister that the country is now in a national lockdown. All Highland schools will remain open but the only pupils who should attend are those identified as vulnerable and the children of Key Workers when no other arrangements can be made.
The Highland Council met today (7 January 2021) and took the opportunity to discuss Brexit. A number of issues arising from the UK's exit from the EU were discussed and the complexity of the situation was recognised particularly since there are a number of other concurrent issues such as COVID.
The Council wishes to provide re-assurance to communities that it's Winter Gritting teams are continuing to work extremely hard throughout the area during the current lock-down, providing a road and pavement gritting service following the Council's policy on prioritisation of routes. Details of the council's highland wide and local area gritting policies and maps are on the Council’s website at www.highland.gov.uk/gritting.
The Highland Council today launched the Temporary Business Closure Grant. This grant is available for businesses who have had to close due to the COVID-19 protective measures introduced on Boxing Day.