SHETLAND Islands Council has appointed a local government consultant to run their administration until the end of the financial year after failing to recruit a director of corporate services.
Former director of finance and resources at Fife Council Brian Lawrie has been providing advice to the council’s finance service over the past year, following the highly critical report from local government watchdog The Accounts Commission last year.
On Thursday the council announced he had accepted a temporary contract as interim director of corporate services.
The council has been through two rounds of interviews in search of a permanent recruit. Last week one prospective candidate pulled out at short notice.
Mr Lawrie joins four other directors who have been appointed as part of a major restructuring of the authority over the past few months.
Council leader Josie Simpson welcomed the decision, while acknowledging the disappointment at finding a permanent recruit.
“I am pleased we have taken the proactive step of getting someone with Brian’s experience on board until we are able to put in place a more permanent solution,” Mr Simpson.
Chief executive Alistair Buchan acknowledged that appointing an interim director was an expensive option, but said it was important to fill this key position to help tackle the problem facing the council, which is seeking to save £26 million over the next two years.
He said: “I’m very conscious of the fact that we are in the middle of a cost-cutting exercise, so we must be consistent with our messages. However, I have said before that we need support to help us move forward as an organisation.
“Although senior managers obviously cost money, I have no problem whatsoever in assuring folk that this arrangement delivers a good deal for this council.
“Brian has worked for us in the past so has the advantage of knowing what he’s coming to and, in many ways, can hit the ground running. I’ve commented before on his excellent background and feel we’d have been hard pressed to get a better person in the circumstances.”
Mr Lawrie said he was delighted to lend his support to the council, which he said had made “significant strides” over the last six months.
He said that corporate services were “crucial to driving the change agenda and supporting other services to ensure we deliver the most cost-effective outcomes for the residents of Shetland”.
Mr Lawrie was taken on as a consultant last November having retired from Fife Council two months earlier. In 2005 he was named ‘public sector finance director of the year’ and was also chairman of the finance directors section of the Scottish Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.