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Convener calls for Highland Council to give more powers to local committees

By Gavin Musgrove

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Highland Council chief officials have said they are committed to more decisions being taken locally.

It comes after the council's convener Bill Lobban was critical of the lack of powers being given to the authority's local area committees despite pledges to do so.

The latest Badenoch and Strathspey agenda had just three items for discussion comprising the roll-out of social security payments in the strath. an update from the fire service and a housing report.

Councillro Bill Lobban
Councillro Bill Lobban

Councillor Lobban said: “Localism is the name of the game for all levels of government from now on.

“To make this happen effectively we need to have comprehensive reports on a wide variety of council services provided for the Highland Council area committee to scrutinise and approve.

“I sincerely hope that changes in our management structure will ensure that local members have the right information to make informed decisions on behalf of the public. To do otherwise is not localism.”

A Highland Council spokeswoman said the authority is committed to enhanced local decision making.

She said: "Council staff have been engaging with all local committees over the past year to explore what more, if anything, can be added to their remits over and above the wide range of powers that are already available to them under the council’s scheme of delegation.

"The council’s new senior management structure has also given a strategic area remit to each executive chief officer to ensure that a greater focus is given to developing and implementing its place based strategy."

Kate Lackie, Executive Chief Officer for Badenoch and Strathspey, said: “I am delighted to have Badenoch and Strathspey in my area remit. It’s a fantastic area that I am looking forward to getting to know a lot better.

"I am aware of frustrations regarding the content and substance of local committee agendas and I will be working with the committee chair, Bill Lobban, to identify opportunities to enhance local democratic decision making and accountability.”

Most local planning applications were at one time determined by area committees.

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