Highland Council’s last full meeting of the year had to be postponed until after the New Year after IT problems on Thursday.
With a raft of issues on the agenda to be dealt with, the meeting descended into chaos and was finally cancelled as the tech snags stopped almost half the councillors from joining the meeting.
After suggesting the meeting could be held on Friday, the council later announced it is postponed to January 7.
The IT problems started early, during councillor pre-meetings, and by the time the meeting was due to start only 45 councillors out of 72 were able to connect.
Those who could joined the meeting, some dressed in festive garb, but the mood soured with poor sound, dogs barking and mystery voices clouding the roll call and foiling attempts by members to send in others’ apologies.
Some councillors demanded an adjournment and postponement while tetchy convener Bill Lobban barely concealed his impatience with the situation.
Tory opposition leader Councillor Andrew Jarvie described the proceedings as an ‘utter farce’ as he was unable to stay online for more than 90 seconds.
“It is beyond bizarre that the convenor of the council kept pushing to hold the meeting in the face of these outages we know from the past take at least 12 hours to resolve. Even more so when both the leader of the council and budget leader were completely unable to join.
“Councillors were even asked to drive to HQ to join the meeting.
“It is entirely within the rules, but I refused as the clearest option was to defer and avoid multiple people driving to one place.”
A Highland Council spokesman said: “Our ICT support provider apologised for the serious network issues which resulted in the postponement of today’s scheduled full meeting of the Highland Council.”
The 27 item agenda with 15 questions and five motions now languishes for a further three weeks.
For only the third time in the council’s history, a member of the public was due to ask a question at the meeting.
Ms J Alexander, a parent of two children in Culloden and one in Balloch primary will have to wait until next month to question the council about when the £7.5m extension for Culloden Academy, agreed by the council in March 2018 in its five year capital programme, will go ahead.
Local member Ken Gowans is also due to ask a question about the council’s decision to erect demountables at the school, demanding assurance that they will not be funded from the extension budget.
Members are also due to lay to rest an item hotly disputed during the pandemic by voting on a motion that play park budgets and decision-making should be devolved to area committees in consultation with wards.
Another motion likely to prompt debate is from Wester Ross councillor Alexander MacInnes demanding greater community empowerment in the face of the council’s failure to deliver everyday services, complaints which he says overflow from his inbox on a daily basis.