SHETLAND Islands Council is trying to snatch their neighbouring authority’s chief executive to help the council through the next two and a half years.
Yesterday (Thursday) afternoon the SIC decided to offer the post of interim chief executive to Alistair Buchan, who has been chief executive of Orkney Islands Council for the past 13 years.
Shetland’s councillors have picked Mr Buchan from a shortlist of three candidates, but must wait until next week to hear if he has accepted the job.
On Monday afternoon Orkney Islands Council is holding a special meeting to decide if they are willing to release Mr Buchan for more than two years on secondment to their northerly neighbours.
One Orkney councillor, Alistair Gordon, said he would be happy for Mr Buchan to be seconded as long as Shetland paid them a “transfer fee”.
Mr Gordon said that the OIC’s current finance director Albert Tait could step into the chief’s shoes in exchange for a payment to cover the extra cost to the authority.
OIC vice convener James Stockan said that he believed that Mr Buchan was probably just what Shetland was looking for to help it with the problems of modernisation, belt tightening and governance that it is facing.
However Orkney’s councillors are being asked to make a “sacrifice” which they have to consider carefully at a time of unprecedented austerity.
“I think he will bring something of a different culture to Shetland which is more required in a time of austerity because he has worked with a much smaller budget and delivered services,” Mr Stockan said.
“We will be losing someone of considerable experience at a time of unprecedented change to public services so you would imagine there would be some sort of cost to ourselves.
“It is a risk for us and we will be making a sacrifice so the question is do we have the generosity of spirit and what can we do to minimise the risk to ourselves?”
One difficulty is that Orkney already has a number of temporary heads of service and the council will be concerned about further instability being created by Mr Buchan’s departure.
However Mr Stockan said that he was very much in favour of the two islands council working together to help each other out.
SIC convener Sandy Cluness said he did not wish to comment on the job offer until next week.
Mr Buchan and OIC convener Stephen Hagan said they would not comment until after Monday afternoon’s meeting in Kirkwall.
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