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Opposition councillors question Highland Council’s failure to use furlough scheme

Lochaber SNP councillor Niall McLean (left) and SNP councillor Ron MacWilliam (right).
Lochaber SNP councillor Niall McLean (left) and SNP councillor Ron MacWilliam (right).

Opposition SNP councillors yesterday took Highland Council bosses to task over what they see as the authority’s “failure” to take advantage of the UK Government’s jobs retention scheme.

HighLife Highland, the council’s arm’s length leisure and recreation organisation, has furloughed 1,200 staff, but no staff within the council itself have been furloughed.

Lochaber SNP councillor Niall McLean asked why the council had not turned to the scheme to save money in difficult financial times when other councils have.

“We’ve failed to use the furlough scheme, which is very well-known and well-used,” he said.

“It could have saved millions.

“Is there not going forward a need to look at what schemes both governments are offering, assess that and make best use of them?

“This seems to have been a failing within the council.”

Mr McLean said the council should have involved councillors more – a step that would have prevented what he said was an “oversight” about the furlough scheme.

Fellow SNP councillor Ron MacWilliam added: “I have no idea why none of our staff have been furloughed.

“As far as I can make out local authorities across the UK have benefited quite well from that scheme in terms of furloughing staff who are connected to the revenue-generating functions.

“I heard Edinburgh Council was attempting to furlough 500 staff.

“I’m struggling to see why that money was not applied for.”

Highland Council said there are restrictions around the furlough scheme and a report would go to councillors next month.

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