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Community Planning

What is Community Planning?

  • Community planning is the process through which the connections between national priorities decided by the Scottish Governement and those at Highland, local and neighbourhood levels are improved. This process has found focus through the Single Outcome Agreement which requires local authorities and community planning partners to detail how they will achieve the 15 national outcomes set by the Scottish Governement.
  • It is about making sure that people and communities in the Highlands are genuinely engaged in making decisions on public services which affect them.
  • It requires a commitment from organisations in the Highlands to work together, not apart, in providing better public services.
  • It provides the over-arching partnership framework within which other initiatives and partnerships can be co-ordinated and, where necessary, acting to rationalise and simplify public sector working arrangements.

Highland Single Outcome Agreement - connecting local and national priorities

The Highland Single Outcome Agreement (SOA2) Agreement reflects the new relationship between the Scottish Government and Local Government and one that both levels of government are committed to developing. The Agreement is based upon the Concordat between the Scottish Government and COSLA.

The SOA also provides the framework for community planning in the Highlands. It has:

  • Re-focused partnership effort on the regional priorities, by identifying regional priorities, agreeing 15 local outcomes and identifying which to give most priority to, in terms of partnership review;
  • Led to a review of structures for the Community Planning Partnership, particularly In the creation of a Community Planning Partnership Performance Board (which has public sector accountability for the development and delivery of the SOA);
  • Meant an ongoing review to ensure that partnership structures and processes are fit for purpose:
    • to deliver the agreed outcomes;
    • to enable proper scrutiny and accountability for performance with elected members and board members using current governance and accountability arrangements;
    • to support community planning processes at the local level; and
    • to report performance to the public in a way that enables their views on performance and priorities to be influential.
    • Enabled a formal channel for dialogue with the Scottish Government on improving public services in the Highlands, through membership of the CPP Performance Board.

Scope of Community Planning Arrangements

Given the scale of the Highland area, covering a third of the Scottish landmass, Community planning arrangements will operate in Highland at the following geographies:

  • At a pan-Highland geography for the Outcome Agreement as a whole, overseen by the Performance Board
  • At the level of three Operational Areas for organising public service delivery to meet local outcomes (e.g. this is the geography for which the Council manages service delivery, the Community Health Partnerships are organised for delivering health outcomes and for Northern Constabulary Divisions with joint tactical community safety meetings for community safety outcomes);
  • At the ward level, or combination of wards, for community projects (e.g. LEADER programme) and for consultation through ward forums which will be supported as a means for local scrutiny of public service delivery;
  • At an intermediate level between Ward and operational Areas where that makes sense e.g. Inverness City Partnership and the Caithness Regeneration Partnership
  • Around Associated School Groups (x 29), for service planning for children and young people
  • At the personal and professional level for staff working in public services, supported by organisational development approaches to staff training, management development, and appraisal and related award schemes.


The Council, with its local partners, currently operate corporate governance and scrutiny for the services for which they are responsible, and have joint governance and scrutiny arrangements in place for services for children and young people. In 2024 new arrangements were put in place for jointly reviewing performance in community care between HNS Highland and Highland Council with scope for this to extend across all joint health related outcomes. The CPP Performance Board is accountable for developing and delivering the SOA.

Ongoing development of the Single Outcome Agreement

Partnership review

The development of the Agreement to date has provided the opportunity for the Community Planning Partners to review the way in which the partnership operates. In particular with seven of the 15 local outcomes to be subject to further partnership review, this will involve agreeing a programme of work with partners, to be underway by June 2024, to review:

  • joint working arrangements (leadership and management);
  • the joint objectives and scale of improvement to be achieved;
  • the impact on equalities groups;
  • the extent of aligned or pooled resources;
  • the method of delivery;
  • the performance framework (not simply adopting current indicators);
  • the best approach to stakeholder and community involvement;
  • the operational arrangements across the Highland geography.

Early in 2024 a review of the partnership arrangements for public protection began. New arrangements will be in place by June 2024 covering the following public protection requirements: adult support and protection; alcohol and drugs partnership; child protection; multi-agency public protection arrangements for violent and sexual offenders; violence against women; youth justice; domestic abuse against males; hate crime and anti-social behaviour.

Self-evaluation and the Public Service Improvement Framework

For each of these review areas the partnership can be supported with self evaluation, potentially using the Public Service Improvement Framework which the Council and the Highlands and Islands Fire Service have adopted already.

Diversity of needs and communities – equalities

Community Planning Partners are required to encourage equal opportunities specifically on the grounds of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation and religion or belief. Creating a fairer and more equal Highland is integral to the Highland SOA. Each partner is subject to the public sector equality duties to give due regard to race, disability and gender in all their activities. Arrangements to meet these duties are detailed in the partners’ equality schemes which complement the SOA. The Equality Bill is expected to harmonise anti-discrimination legislation and introduce a single public sector duties across all six equality strands. Individually, and as partners, the agencies in Highland are already working to promote equality across all six strands. There is a strong history of partners working together in Highland on equality including the development of joint services, engagement with local groups with an interest in equalities, as well as gathering data, sharing information and identifying gaps. Partnership support will be provided to screen, and if required assess the impact of, the proposals arising from the review of the seven local outcomes in 2024-10.

Engaging others

In 2024-9 new forums for involving other organisations and representative groups have developed. These include:

  • a Stakeholder Forum for Community Care
  • a new Environment Forum
  • a new Highland Economy Forum

Third Sector

Third sector activity is strong in the Highlands, as identified in the area profile. The third sector is engaged in developing and delivering local outcomes through:

  • The direct engagement of particular third sector bodies in service delivery and design
  • The direct engagement of particular third sector bodies to influence policy and projects. This may be through a commissioning arrangements e.g. advocacy providers
  • The support of voluntary organisations to help them to deliver their objectives where they support partner priorities.
  • The support of social enterprise to increase their number and to grow more over the VAT threshold.
  • The support of those bodies helping to build voluntary and volunteering capacity in communities – this includes financial support and support in kind currently to Councils of Voluntary Service (CVS) and Voluntary Action Highland (VAH).
  • The support to Community Councils (there are around 150 in the Highlands).

Work progressed in 2024-9 and will continue during SOA2 in the following areas to strengthen the relationship between the statutory and third sectors:

  • the development of the Compact which will be used in all our relations with each voluntary organisation we work with (currently the public sector partners in the Compact are the Council, NHS Highlands and HIE);
  • running a series of local consultation events about the compact and the contribution the sector makes to the SOA;
  • the involvement of the sector in the 22 Ward Forums which meet twice a year across Highland Council Wards to scrutinise service delivery;
  • a review of the funding arrangements, initially between the Council and the sector to Follow the Public Pound and in keeping with the Government’s Third Sector Action Plan, notably the inclusion of social clauses in procurement contracts.
  • the annual survey of the Council’s performance which includes a section on people’s views about volunteering.

Community Engagement

The way in which communities are involved in decisions about the public services they receive will form part of the review for the seven outcomes prioritised from 2024. Community planning partners have agreed to adopt the standards of community engagement and systems for recording their use will be developed in 2024-10. A range of methods are currently used, whether by theme through various forums or by geographic community through for example Ward Forums described above. Web-based performance information is developing to support better engagement and scrutiny. Active participation by communities in shaping and developing their communities is supported by a 6 year programme of LEADER funding from Europe.

© 2024 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme