Coun­cil to con­sider ranger merger plan

The Oban Times - - News -

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.

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