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Highland Council recognises staff for “above and beyond” efforts to deliver their services


By Neil MacPhail

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Attendees gathered outside on the steps of the Strathpeffer Pavilion at the end of the ceremony.
Attendees gathered outside on the steps of the Strathpeffer Pavilion at the end of the ceremony.

Council staff were recently recognised in the Highland Council’s Staff Recognition Awards.

Council convener Bill Lobban said: “Congratulations to everyone, not only those who won awards but also to all those who were nominated and shortlisted for the Staff Recognition Awards 2024.

“These awards bring the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the fantastic achievements of our staff across the Council, and across the Highlands.”

Staff were winners in the following categories -

Service Innovation and Improvement:

Cllr Ken Gowans with the In-house Bus operation team.
Cllr Ken Gowans with the In-house Bus operation team.

This category was looking for innovative teams who have modernised and improved service provision. The winner was the In-house Bus operation team.

This project began in 2022, set up in a very short time and launching in just nine months at the start of 2023, was set up to mitigate significant cost increases resulting from re-tendering of contracts. It is now delivering School and Passenger Transport at significantly lower costs saving over £1.2 million.

A successful driver recruitment campaign, against the background of a national shortage, has secured an expanding team of experienced bus drivers. The service model covers numerous routes, school trips, and supports many events, including the Black Isle show and Highland Cross.

Achieving better outcomes in partnership:

Kevin Shinnie, from sponsor E J Parker Technical Services, with the winners (Communities and Place Inverness Team and Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston Community Company).
Kevin Shinnie, from sponsor E J Parker Technical Services, with the winners (Communities and Place Inverness Team and Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston Community Company).

This category highlighted teams who have delivered better outcomes through working in partnership. The winning team was the Communities and Place Inverness Team and Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston Community Company.

The Community Caretakers identify works to enhance the area, and which the council does not have resources to complete. The council provides the materials, and the local community provide skilled labour to complete the works – including footbridge repairs, fencing, dry stone walling, cemetery path repairs, raised beds and general enhancement of floral areas. The ongoing partnership is essential to ensure the busy tourist areas are well maintained and the Company has seen over £2.3m investment via match funding.

Tackling inequalities and improving health and well being:

Cllr Ian Brown with the Home to Highland (Social Work) team who were winners in this category.
Cllr Ian Brown with the Home to Highland (Social Work) team who were winners in this category.

This category highlights teams who have made a difference to individuals or groups of people to address inequality and improve their health and wellbeing.

The winning social work teams, Home to Highland Programme vision is to return young people to Highland from costly out of area placements, enabling Highland children to remain in the communities they know, as opposed to living hundreds of miles away from their families, friends and schools.

Since 2018, 96 children have returned to Highland, improving educational, health and well being outcomes for the returned young people. This also avoids costs of over £17 million pounds, which is invested in the development of new services in the Highland area enabling children to remain in the communities they know.

Strengthening communities, local democracy and resilience:

Cllr Calum Munro, who was a member of the judging panel, with the Gaelic Team and Cultarlann Project Partnership.
Cllr Calum Munro, who was a member of the judging panel, with the Gaelic Team and Cultarlann Project Partnership.

The Gaelic Team and Cultarlann Project Partnership won this category. Cultarlann Inbhir Nis is a vision for a gathering place for everyone with a passion for or an interest in the Gaelic language and culture to come together for entertainment, chat, learning and friendship to celebrate and strengthen Gaelic, its culture and traditions in a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere. Cultarlann provides a vibrant centre for Gaelic in Inverness and the Highlands, running successful Gaelic community events.

Just transition to a net zero economy:

Cllr Sarah Fanet, who was a member of the judging panel, pictured alongside some members of the Climate Change and Energy Team
Cllr Sarah Fanet, who was a member of the judging panel, pictured alongside some members of the Climate Change and Energy Team

The Energy Efficient Scotland Area Based Scheme was the winner of this category. The Climate Change and Energy Team spearheads transformative whole-house retrofit projects helping households grappling with fuel poverty.

Central to their mission is securing substantial external funding to alleviate fuel poverty, with initiatives targeting the most energy-inefficient properties, historically deemed too challenging or costly to upgrade.

Benefits achieved through strategic upgrades include substantial reductions in energy bills, reducing carbon emissions; alleviation of poverty and enhanced living conditions, which positively impacts health. Focusing on economies of scale and driving regeneration, the community-centred approach incorporates training initiatives, fostering self-sufficiency within communities. Over 100 winter packs have been distributed including vouchers for winter essentials, ensuring tangible support for vulnerable families.

Best Team Award:

Council Chief Executive, Derek Brown, pictured alongside members of the Roads storm response team.
Council Chief Executive, Derek Brown, pictured alongside members of the Roads storm response team.

In recognition of teams that demonstrate outstanding all round team performance, ground-breaking partnership working or response to a crisis, the winners were the Roads Storm Response Team.

It dealt with 12 named storm events over the 23/24 winter season - dealing with snow, high winds, flooding and landslips, working in extreme weather conditions, day and night, to keep the road network open.

They are often regarded as 'the fourth emergency service', being an integral part of the emergency response provided by other blue light services.

The roads staff also provided current information and photos to the communications team to assist with informing and warning the public. They worked together with the communications team, duty directors, Service centre staff, housing and property, ward managers and partners in the Emergency Liaison Group to resolve the response to the impacts of the storm.

Delivering Excellence Award:

Cllr Glynis Campbell Sinclair with the team behind the Climate Change Benchmarking Tool.
Cllr Glynis Campbell Sinclair with the team behind the Climate Change Benchmarking Tool.

The winner of this award was the Climate Change Benchmarking tool.

This new tool developed by the Climate Change and Energy Team is a ground-breaking initiative that pioneers online energy benchmarking. It marks a significant leap forward in the council's monitoring and reporting. This innovative tool empowers the council in its journey towards net zero by providing vital insights into energy consumption patterns, costs, and performance efficiencies across its diverse property portfolio.

Designed to offer transparent data on carbon emissions and energy usage, it equips decision makers with actionable intelligence to optimize energy expenditure effectively. With over 60% of emissions stemming from non-domestic properties, this initiative serves as a cornerstone in achieving the council's ambitious Net Zero Strategy.

Excellent Outcomes, Excellent People Award:

Sheila Lundberg, winner of this category, is pictured receiving her award from Cllr Graham MacKenzie.
Sheila Lundberg, winner of this category, is pictured receiving her award from Cllr Graham MacKenzie.

This award recognises effective people are at the heart of local government excellence. Sheila Lundberg won this category for Educational experiences for deaf students.

Sheila’s leadership has been instrumental in achieving excellence in inspections, demonstrating her commitment to delivering exceptional educational experiences for deaf students. Moreover, her advocacy efforts, including influencing legislative changes and initiatives like the BSL pack, showcase her tireless pursuit of equity and inclusivity.

Her passion, innovation, and unwavering support make a great manager and true champion for equality and well-being. She actively engages with pupils and families, organizes community events, and mentors’ staff to ensure a holistic approach to deaf education.

Her dedication and extraordinary commitment are evident in every aspect of her work, from her hands-on approach, to her ability to inspire those around her. Her impact extends far beyond service she created 30 years ago, touching the lives of deaf young people and their families, and leaving a lasting legacy of empowerment and opportunity.

Apprentice or Trainee of the Year:

Kasia Tarnowska-Kuzma, winner in this category, is pictured alongside Cllr John Finlayson.
Kasia Tarnowska-Kuzma, winner in this category, is pictured alongside Cllr John Finlayson.

Winner of Apprentice of the Year is Kasia Tarnowska-Kuzma.

Kasia joined the Project Management team in early 2022 in the role of Project Coordinator MA, in the post covid period where the teams were still largely working remotely, but she very quickly managed to integrate herself into the team and forge good working relationships with the team who speak very highly of her.

Kasia was a mature candidate in the topic of Diploma of Project Management, completing her course whilst also working full-time and with a young family to support.

The High Life Highland (HLH) Partner Award:

The High Life Highland Archive and Records Management Team are pictured alongside Steve Walsh (Chief Executive of HLH) and Derek Brown (Chief Executive of Highland Council).
The High Life Highland Archive and Records Management Team are pictured alongside Steve Walsh (Chief Executive of HLH) and Derek Brown (Chief Executive of Highland Council).

This is a new award this year in recognition of our partnership with High Life Highland. The award recognises a project, team or individual from High Life Highland that has demonstrated particular achievement, and the winner was the High Life Highland Archive and Records Management Team.

The team and the Council’s Health and Social Care Records Support team have a very close relationship which has developed particularly over the last three years.

The Council’s Records Team receives numerous subject access requests throughout the year from individuals who were formerly in care seeking to find out information on their past.

These requests have increased greatly in recent years with the advent of the Scottish Government’s Redress Scheme which offers redress payments to people abused in care as children in the past, and some next of kin. The joint work with and professional support of the HLH’s Records Management Team is essential to deal effectively with these enquiries.

The Convener’s Award

Convener Bill Lobban is pictured alongside The Storr Project Team.
Convener Bill Lobban is pictured alongside The Storr Project Team.

The Storr Project is the winner of the 2024 award’ – a multi-disciplinary team which created and executed brand ‘The Storr’, an exemplary project in an iconic location, delivered by a small project team who kept the community, heritage and Gaelic culture its heart.

The team nurtured and developed positive multiple internal and external workstreams to deliver positive change and generate new income helping to deliver sustainable tourism.

In addition to the award categories, 10 long serving staff, with over 45 years’ service were thanked and presented with a framed print. The longest serving member of staff, Rhona Hall started work for the Council in 1978 in Caithness.

Sponsorship and support for the awards ceremony was provided by E J Parker Technical Services, Wipro, Sustrans, Kier Construction and J. Thomson Printers.


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