Leader discusses impact of Covid Strategic Framework on Highland
5th November 2020
In a review meeting of the national Strategic Framework yesterday evening (4 November), Leader of the Highland Council, Margaret Davidson (Independent) and Chief Executive Donna Manson met with Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government to discuss the impact of Tier one on the Highlands.
Cllr Margaret Davidson said: "The low Covid numbers in Highland are due to very good levels of compliance and also the excellent partnership work across Council, NHS Highland and Police which has succeeded in successfully dealing with local outbreaks.
"Clarity of message is very important as well as having a logical scientific basis for restrictions to avoid any confusion. The continuing restrictions on household indoor contact is certainly one the hardest issues for people. Household visits are extremely important for people's mental health and especially so in more rural areas due to lack of opportunities and facilities to meet in hospitality settings. Restricting social contact to within hospitality also has a welfare and financial impact, where people may not have the resources to pay for meals in order to meet within a hospitality setting. We do understand the government's cautious approach, however, for all the above reasons we are keen to see a lifting of this restriction as soon as possible. People need hope that they can be with families and loved ones, particularly over the festive period."
She added "Although they can open under level one restrictions, hospitality and other businesses will be impacted by travel restrictions and the continuing uncertainty. We need to do ensure they receive as much support as possible. Our accommodation businesses need to know, can they take bookings from England and level 3 for Christmas and New Year. They feel almost frozen at present with lack of clarity. And we need to get as much financial support into Highland for our tourism and hospitality businesses as we can. Highland is hugely dependent on these businesses and there is a case for additional support for Highland."
Donna Manson also raised the issue of welfare for parents of young children who are required to self isolate, but do not qualify for the £500 payment. She said: "Where a parent needs to take time off work in such cases, there can be additional financial pressures on families. There are significant concerns across the Highlands about money and jobs. We are keen to do everything we can to support a greater awareness of welfare benefits and money advice available."
She went on to say: “Due to our rurality and remoteness, very many of our young people have to leave the Highlands for work or study. It is vital for their mental health and for their families, that they are enabled to return home for the festive period and reconnect with their families."
Cllr Davidson added: “I am very grateful to have the opportunity to engage with the Minister and provide input from the Highlands to be considered as part of the Government's decision making."
Councillor Margaret Davidson (Independent) leader of Highland Council.
The Highland Council has welcomed clarification from the Scottish Government that hotels are eligible for the Business Restriction Grant. As hotel restaurants and bars follow the same rules as other restaurants and bars with last entry at 21:30 and closure by 22:30, they have now been included as eligible businesses to receive grant from this scheme.
Members of The Highland Council's City of Inverness Area Committee have today agreed a proposed £4,786,000 investment in council housing for 2021-22. The one-year Inverness Area Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Capital Programme is part of the Highland wide HRA Capital Plan for 2021-22 which will see over £15m invested in improving the housing stock across the region.
The Leader of The Highland Council Margaret Davidson and Chair of the Brexit Working Group Jimmy Gray welcomed the Scottish Government's position paper on the replacement for European Structural Investment Funds. This paper was as a result of a wide consultation process in which the Highlands & Islands made a significant contribution towards.
The category B listed suspension Infirmary footbridge in Inverness which traverses the River Ness between Ness Walk and Ness Bank may need to close for public safety until The Highland Council considers and secures funding for necessary repairs. This was the message that the Council's Roads Operations Manager, John Taylor informed Members of the City of Inverness Area Committee this week.
A new useful guide has been produced to provide people across the Highlands with information and advice on the financial and other support that is available to them. The Highland Council, along with NHS Highland Public Health, Independent Food Aid Network and the Trussell Trust, have brought a wide range of relevant financial advice and support with contact details together in a user-friendly format aimed at people who are struggling to make ends meet.
Dr Tim Allison, Director of Public Health for NHS Highland, opened today's meeting with a presentation on Covid-19, including a Highland perspective. Cllr John Finlayson, Chair of the Committee, said: "I want to take this opportunity to thank Dr Allison for his informative presentation on the virus that he delivered to Committee this morning." The presentation began by providing a brief background to Covid-19 before then providing an explanation of how the virus transmits between individuals and the presence of coronavirus in the Highland region.
At today's meeting (18 November) of the Council's Education Committee, Members were provided an update on the ongoing rollout of 1140 hours of funded ELC provision in settings across Highland. A report to the Committee outlined that of the 241 settings across the region, 202 Highland settings will be delivering 1140 hours by spring 2021.
The Highland Council is today (17 November 2020) launching a consultation giving the community until 12 March 2021 to comment on the proposed contents of the Common Good Fund Asset Register for Wick. The Highland Council does not currently hold a Common Good Fund for the former Royal Burgh of Wick.
This week, The Scottish Government has confirmed that The Highland Council area will again be placed into Protection Level One in The Scottish Government's 5 tier framework. This means our communities will for now continue to able to operate with fewer restrictions for our hospitality, retail and leisure sectors than other parts of the country.
More than 1,250 new teachers and support staff have been recruited as a result of £80 million of support announced in the summer. Education Secretary John Swinney pledged the ring-fenced package of funding to help local authorities' recruitment for the re-opening of schools.