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SIC breaches financial policy

SHETLAND Islands Council has finally breached its policy of maintaining its oil reserves above £250 million.

The news came after councillors were forced to cancel a meeting on Wednesday morning where they were to sign off their annual accounts prior to handing them to the auditors by midnight.

Draft accounts were not published until Wednesday afternoon, but council leader Josie Simpson assured that finance staff would meet the Wednesday midnight deadline for handing finished accounts over to external auditors Audit Scotland.

The accounts show that the council drew almost £35 million from its reserves to balance its book for the last financial year.

Though this figure was £10 million less than had been budgeted for, the council had not expected to have to find an extra £13.3 million to cover revenue costs.

In her report, head of finance Hazel Sutherland says that “the £34.416m draw will be made against the balance sheet of £256m of reserves as at the 31 March 2010, which will result in the Council breaching the £250 million Reserves Floor policy limit”.

She added that when the report had been written final figures were not yet available.

Council leader Josie Simpson said that finance staff had “beavered very, very hard” for the past few weeks to meet the deadline to hand the accounts to Audit Scotland.

He said that there had been so much extra work to do with changes being made to the authority and extra demands from the auditors that the process had taken longer than usual.

“The council will definitely meet the deadline, but the accounts were not completely finished in time for the morning meeting.”

Councillors will get to view the accounts on Wednesday 6 July when they next meet.

By then a group of seven councillors should have appointed the new top tier of five directors who will lead the council’s nest stage of restructuring.

Interviews of internal candidates for the top jobs will be taking place over the next two days.

The panel consists of Allison Duncan, Allan Wishart, Bill Manson, Betty Fullerton, Cecil Smith, Josie Simpson and Iris Hawkins, who stepped in after Gary Robinson was unavailable on Thursday.

Mr Simpson said: “We are hopeful we will be able to make appointments by Friday but we will have to wait and see how the interviews go.”

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