Published: 04/07/2012 11:00 - Updated: 04/07/2012 11:21

Council five-year plan attacked

Margaret Davidson called for the authority to make a firm commitment to press for broadband to be installed in every home in the region.
Margaret Davidson called for the authority to make a firm commitment to press for broadband to be installed in every home in the region.

OPPOSITION Highland councillors have attacked the local authority’s programme of planned work for the next five years and claim less than 20 per cent of it is new.

The SNP, Liberal Democrat and Labour administration published a major document setting out 128 targets relating to education, transport and housing services and it was endorsed by the full council at a meeting in Inverness on Thursday.

Among its proposed measures is a target of building 600 council homes in the region and introducing a living wage of at least £7.20 per hour for lowly paid staff next April.

However, several independents claimed most of the programme’s contents had been started by them when they led the previous coalition with the Lib Dems and Labour.

It was hailed as a bold and ambitious programme by the Highland Council leader, Drew Hendry, but independent group leader Carolyn Wilson said there was little which was new although she welcomed the contents.

"This is a 128-point list of ambitions for the council and less than 20 per cent of them are new," she said.

"It is undoubtedly an enormous amount of work and on our part what we have to do is work hard to make sure it is achievable because most of the work was started by people on this side of the chamber."

Senior independent Margaret Davidson called for the authority to make a firm commitment to press for broadband to be installed in every home in the region.

The authority said it would work with national politicians and Highlands and Islands Enterprise "to seek to provide" homes and businesses with broadband.

Ms Davidson (Aird and Loch Ness) said: "The Scottish and UK governments will get to most of the places but there will be black holes [in coverage] and we should look to get broadband to all homes in the Highlands.

"There is 80 per cent or more of this programme which was begun in the last council and it will be good to have that."

Administration member Alasdair Christie said he welcomed the independents’ endorsement and admitted it was "debatable" whether all of it would actually be carried out by 2017.

"If we achieve 75 to 80 per cent that will have an impact on people’s lives," said the Lib Dem councillor.

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