HIGHLAND Council has created a video to explain some of the impacts of COVID-19 on communities and on the Council.
Leader of the Council, Margaret Davidson said: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on many individuals, businesses and communities across Highland. There have been tragic losses in so many ways – loss of loved ones, loss of the company and contact of family and friends, loss of income or jobs and loss of a way of life.
“Many people have found themselves vulnerable, perhaps for the first time ever, and in need of financial assistance, advice and even basic necessities such as food.
“Our staff, our partners, the voluntary sector and communities have been providing a tremendous response to some of the immediate challenges, providing support to the most vulnerable. We have all had to adapt to different ways of working and indeed socialising and learning new skills.”
She added, “The pandemic has highlighted our complete reliance on good broadband across the Highlands. Our ICT staff have worked tirelessly to extend our internal network to meet demand, however it is the inadequate quality of the external infrastructure across the Highlands which is holding back our remoter communities and businesses. This will require to be a key focus, along with UK and Scottish Government, going forward in the new world we find ourselves in.”
Budget Leader, Councillor Alister Mackinnon said: “COVID-19 has impacted significantly on the Council. In our response to the needs of our communities, we have had to quickly adapt to provide new services, including the Humanitarian Assistance Centres, the Helpline, food projects, hardship and welfare projects, business grants, childcare for key workers and virtual education. All of this comes at a cost and there is a continued need for may of these new services to be provided, such as child care for key workers over the summer period.
“At the same time, our income has been decimated, and in recent years, we have had to adapt to a reducing budget by a greater reliance on income. One example alone is that the income fell from £200,000 to just £75 in one month for a single car park. Other examples include loss of planning fees, harbour dues and marine fuel sales.
“We have established a budget recovery group to look at ways to mitigate the financial impact, and we have proved that the Council is capable of delivering substantial savings, however the scale of this challenge is huge and the timescale is short.”
Depute Leader and Chair of the Recovery Board, Alasdair Christie added: “It is clear that the impact of COVID-19 will be with us for a very long time. The devastation caused to lives and businesses is still being quantified. We have a long journey to embark to repair the damage caused and our work on recovery has begun, this will run in parallel to a continued response to ensure that we continue to support Highland folk and local businesses as best we can. The Council cannot do everything alone and we working with partners, businesses and communities to protect and grow the economy and ensure individuals and families of the Highlands remain safe and protected.”