Commission On Highland Democracy Report Launched
15th December 2017
The Commission on Highland Democracy has this week launched its report at the meeting of The Highland Council.
The Commission, which was supported in its work by The Highland Council, but is independent, has produced a comprehensive analysis of the state of democratic participation in Highland.
Commissioners, drawn from across public life in Highland, considered the many submissions received from people and groups across the area before setting out key findings. The report also plots out suggested next steps for The Council and its partners to consider.
Rory Mair the Commission's Chair said: "The Commission has worked hard to, first and foremost, get out and about and listen to people in communities across Highland. They discovered that there is really an appetite among those that live in Highland to get involved in the democratic process which shapes their communities.
"We found that people consider decision making to be centralised, not because it takes place a long distance from them. Rather, they feel that centralisation occurs when a small group of highly empowered individuals take decisions in a way that has little reference to anybody outside the decision making group and in an exclusive way. It matters little where decision makers are situated and much more how they go about their business. People want a relationship with decision makers in which they are involved and engaged on an ongoing basis.
"The Commission has identified these and other issues, but has also suggested a way forward for the Council and other organisations who support our communities in the Highland to consider."
Councillor Margaret Davidson, Leader of The Highland Council, welcomed the report saying: "Highland Council agreed to establish an independent commission in March 2016 to explore the current state of democracy in the Highlands, and to have conversations locally about the kind of democracy people want to have.
“We know from our annual survey work that very few people in the region feel that they are involved in how the Council spends its money, or feel that they have any influence over decision making in their local area and Rory and his fellow Commissioners have worked hard to produce a report that is based on hearing what our communities have to say about this. They have brought their vast experience of serving Highland communities to bear in proposing actions that we and our partners should now consider. I am delighted to receive this report today and I am confident that this will help shape our thinking to improve and enhance democracy in the Highlands."
The final report is available on the Commissions website at: https://highlanddemocracy.wordpress.com/
At the launch (back ltr) Cllr Jimmy Gray, Cllr Callum Smith, Isobel McCallum, Cllr Alasdair Christie, (front ltor) Cllr Richard Laird, Rory Mair, Cllr Margaret Davidson.
Speaking at Highland Council's Corporate Resources Committee today (24 May 2018), Budget Leader Cllr Alister Mackinnon said that the Council's reported overspend showed the extent to which successive budget reductions and council tax freezes meant the authority had no wriggle room to manage significant pressures in demand-led services like supporting children with additional support needs. He said:"We have done everything we can to protect front line services and particularly services to children and young people.
The public is being asked for its views on proposals by The Highland Council to review the maximum level of charges for the hire of taxis or private hire cars fitted with taxi meters operating under licence of The Highland Council. The Council has a statutory duty in terms of Section 17 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 to review its scales for the fares and other taxi related charges every 18 months.
A report published today by the local authority spending watchdog looks at how councils are using the estimated 130 ALEOs (arms-length external organisations) in Scotland, which have an annual spend of more than £1.3 billion, and the impact they are making. ALEOs can take many forms - such as companies, community organisations or charities.
Members of The Highland Council's Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee have given their backing to new shop front guidance aimed at ensuring high quality designs for traditional, replacement and new shopfronts throughout the Highlands. The Guidance sets out general principles for repair, reinstatement and replacement of shopfronts, as well as general principles for new shopfronts in new development.
Councillor Matthew Reiss, who represents the Thurso and Northwest Caithness Ward, has been elected as Chairman of The Highland Council's Caithness Committee. He takes over from Councillor Donnie Mackay who has held the role since June 2017.
Members of the Caithness Committee have on Wednesday 16th May 2018 approved the Council's 2018/19 structural maintenance programmes for roads in the area for the coming year which reflects both the strategic network and the importance attached to local roads by rural communities. The revenue budget for road maintenance activities in Caithness for 18/19 is £1.214M of which £0.539M is allocated for winter maintenance with a further capital budget of £0.785M The Highland Council's allocation to areas for structural road maintenance is based on the results of the annual Scottish Road Maintenance Condition Survey, safety inspections, service inspections and input from local members.
The Highland Council remains on track to deliver much-needed affordable homes across the Highlands as recent figures produced show all new home completions in Highland are on the up. In its Strategic Housing Plan 2018-2023 the Council has a pledge to approve a minimum of 500 units each year of which 70% will be for affordable rent and 30% for low cost home ownership.
AVIEMORE now has access to free WIFI in and around the centre of the town thanks to a project led by the Highland Council and funded by the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal. The free WiFi, called "High-Fi", is aimed at stimulating economic growth and will increase digital inclusion across the Highlands.
The Highland Council has considered Audit Scotland's report on Local Government in Scotland, Challenges & Performance 2018. Audit Scotland recognises that councils will continue to face difficult decisions with limited resources.
The work of the Redesign Board has been considered by Council today. The Redesign Board is fundamentally changing the way the council does things.
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