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Maggie takes the helm

Interim infrastructure director Maggie Sandison

SHETLAND Islands Council has a new director of infrastructure services following the promotion of environmental health manager Maggie Sandison.

Sandison was appointed this week after the position was advertised internally following the departure of Phil Crossland back to the Midlands after two years at the helm.

She will hold the post for two years when the council plans to review its management structure as part of its improvement plan.

It is a big step for the manager who arrived in Shetland nine years ago from Arun district council in West Sussex, where she had been in charge of environmental health in the towns of Littlehampton and Bognor Regis.

Her responsibilities will grow from waste management, airports, burial grounds and street cleaning, to take on ferries, ports and harbours, buildings, roads and the council’s fleet of vehicles.

Undaunted by taking on issues she has little experience of, she said: “I think that management is about managing people and I don’t have to be an expert in everything, I just have to be an expert in managing the experts.”

Her department’s greatest challenge in the months ahead will be maintaining the council’s savings drive, which aims to cut the infrastructure budget by 15 per cent or £2.5 million during the next financial year.

Much of those savings will be met by the ferries review, which has already been agreed and is in the process of being implemented.

Sandison said that the likeliest target will be the maintenance budget for council assets – its vehicles, buildings and roads.

“We don’t have the money to spend to maintain them at the level that we have in previous years,” she said.

“It’s likely we will have the same facilities, but they will not be maintained to the same standard.”

Her priority will be to improve communication with the islands’ population, she said, so they understand the need for the council to pare down its spending and help to make service cuts as painless as possible.

“For me the biggest thing we have to do is to work with the community to help them understand the council is changing,” she said.

“It has to look at the minimum level it has to provide and discuss with the community what we have to stop doing.

“I think the community has very valuable ideas about how some of the savings can be achieved.

“We have to take them with us, so they understand the changes we have to make and we understand the impact those changes will have.”

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