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Call for SIC inquiry into what went wrong

A THOROUGH investigation has been called for into how Scotland’s wealthiest authority has ended up having to slash its spending by almost a quarter, cutting jobs and services throughout the isles.

On Thursday Shetland Islands Council’s audit and standards committee agreed that such an inquiry was needed after May when the new council has been elected.

The call came from Lerwick South member Jonathan Wills who said that no one had shown any desire to find out why the council was having to draw an extra £47.4 million from its oil reserves to balance its books this year.

Continuous overspending has left the council’s reserves standing at £219 million, despite a policy to maintain a floor of £250 million.

The new policy agreed last week is to rebuild the reserves over the next 10 years back to £250 million.

To achieve this and avoid losing the reserves altogether, the council has agreed a programme of £15 million savings in 2012/13, with a further £15 million to be saved the following year.

A consultant’s report says the cuts are likely to lead to 600 job losses in the islands’ public and private sector.

After the meeting, councillor Wills said: “What the committee has agreed is to recommend to its successor after the May elections that there should be a full and thorough investigation into how the council got into this financial position.

“Ten years ago everything was fine. I want to know what happened and what went wrong.

“What were the wrong decisions? Did we invest in the wrong things? Did we start buying and selling shares instead of living off the dividends and interests?

“What happened and who took these decisions and how can we avoid it happening again?”