New route for Council staff to whistleblow confidentially with confidence
28th September 2020
Proposals that could provide Highland Council employees with a new ‘independent, dedicated and confidential route' to report malpractice and wrongdoing concerns have received support from Highland Councillors.
Following robust discussion, Members of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee have endorsed the movement of the management of the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy and its processes to the Council’s Fraud Team.
Councillors also agreed to recommend the approval of a revised Whistleblowing Policy and its implementation to the next meeting of The Highland Council on 29 October 2020.
‘Whistleblowing’ is legally defined in relation to malpractice and wrongdoing in relation to criminal offences; failure to comply with legal obligations; miscarriage of justice; health and safety danger of an individual; damage to the environment; and deliberate attempt to cover up of any of the latter.
Previously the Council’s pre-existing Whistleblowing Policy and reporting mechanism was managed by the organisation’s Human Resources team. A review of this earlier policy was carried out in January and February 2020 prior to lockdown and a revised draft Whistleblowing Policy was discussed with Trade Unions during its development and then consulted with the Council’s Staff Partnership Forum in August.
The aim of the new Whistleblowing Policy is to encourage employees and workers (such as agency staff and key contractors) to come forward and report internally any serious concerns without being harassed or victimised for doing so.
The Council’s Fraud Team has a long track record of confidentially and sensitively investigating staff concerns; investigating allegations, identifying wrongdoing and taking appropriate action. The Team can provide an established confidential telephone number, email address and updated online form for staff to use (anonymously if required) in this new revised approach to Whistleblowing. A number of other Scottish Councils also operate similar arrangements.
Members were informed in a report to the Audit and Scrutiny Committee that the revised Whistleblowing Policy is in addition to other pre-existing routes through which staff can raise any concerns such as through the Council’s Grievance; and Bullying & Harassment Policies and procedures and existing Fraud reporting mechanisms.
The Highland Council has been making good progress with paying out grants on behalf of the Scottish Government's COVID-19 Business Hardship Fund. Since applications opened on 20th October 2020.
Highland Council Members approve response to Scottish Government's proposals for the regulation of short-term lets in Scotland. Members at yesterday's meeting of Highland Council homologated its response to the Scottish Government's consultation on the proposals for the regulation of short-term lets in Scotland.
Fiona Duncan has been appointed by The Highland Council as Executive Chief Officer for Health and Social Care, taking over from Fiona Malcolm who has been undertaking the Interim ECO role since early September. Ms Duncan is due to take up the position in January 2021.
At today's meeting of The Highland Council members gave their backing to a motion that highlights the need for the UK Government to review the sick pay system and reform it as a matter of urgency. Councillor Alasdair Christie, Chair of the Council's Recovery Board who put forward the motion along with Councillor Alex Graham said: "It has become more obvious than ever during the current Covid 19 crisis that there are clear and substantial long-standing inadequacies in the sick pay system.
REGIONAL Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has welcomed a commitment from Highland Council to return all schools to a hot meal service. In a letter to the MSP this week, the local authority confirmed more than 60 per cent of schools have gone back to serving hot meals already and it said all schools are expected to follow suit "shortly".
The Leader and the Chief Executive of The Highland Council earlier today took part in a meeting of COSLA focussing on the Scottish Government's new five level protection system for Covid. The meeting gave council leaders the opportunity to examine in more detail the mechanism outlined by the Scottish Government along with the framework of how the tier system will be implemented.
Following its launch on Tuesday 20th October 2020, Highland Council has received and paid out the first Business Hardship Fund grants. As part of the Scottish Government's response to the COVID-19 Brake Restrictions which came into effect on 9 October, the Council has been asked to deliver this grant scheme on behalf of the Scottish Government.
Highland Council Trading Standards are keen to raise awareness of the role of The Small Business Financial Ombudsman Service in resolving disputes between small and medium sized businesses (SME's) and financial service providers which include banks, insurance and money lending businesses. David MacKenzie, Highland Council Trading Standards Manager explains: "We realise the financial struggle that some SME's have had recently because of Covid 19 restrictions.
At the Caithness Area Committee on 22 October 2020 members unanimously confirmed their full support to the business case for Wick John O'Groats Airport to receive Public Service Obligation (PSO) status by putting forward a motion and reinforcing their commitment to working with stakeholders and partners to deliver this as a matter of urgency. The motion lodged recognises the fundamental strategic importance of Wick John O’Groats Airport to the economy of the region, and the energy, business and tourism sectors in particular.
Members of the Caithness Committee have identified fuel poverty as their number one concern and are pleased to announce that the member-led capital housing budget has increased to 10% as they welcome £2,253,000 of investment which will be used to carry out improvements to the housing stock across the county. A specific priority of the capital programme is improving heating and make homes more energy efficient, with over £1,300,000 of budget approved to replace the oldest and most inefficient heating systems with a further £150,000 for one-off heating replacements.