Council to consider ranger merger plan
THE HIGHLAND Council is to consider plans to transfer countryside ranger services to High Life Highland (HLH).
The new places committee will meet for the first time today (June 15) when it will be asked to approve the recommendation to merge the services with HLH later this year.
The Highland Council’s Countryside Rangers is one of the largest local authority ranger services in Scotland. Rangers manage a large number of countryside sites and are responsible for the promotion of the outdoors in schools.
Uncertainty has surrounded the service over the last few years, with staffing cut from 22 full-time equivalent jobs to 10.5. With increasing council budget cuts, the local authority has said alternative solutions need to be found to safeguard the future delivery of the service.
HLH, a limited company with charitable status, receives funding from the council. If the transfer was to go ahead, an agreed budget will be given to HLH to enable the delivery of the ranger service.
Caol and Mallaig councillor Ben Thompson told the Lochaber Times: ‘It has always seemed slightly odd to me that the ranger service was part of the development and infrastructure section of the council. The ranger service used to be part of libraries and leisure, which is now High Life Highland.
‘This proposal to put libraries, leisure and rangers back together makes sense to me as there is a lot more in common there.’
If the transfer is approved, it is thought all remaining ranger staff will go to HLH on their existing contractual terms and conditions.
Initial consultations took place in April. Highland council said the meeting was ‘fully attended and well received by staff’.
The council also met with trade unions in May. No objections were raised and unions were said to be ‘broadly supportive’ of the proposal.
However, concerns over the potential loss of ranger identity and prioritisation of workload have been expressed by rangers. The council said HLH has given assurances these will be preserved.