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Trustees seek to heal rifts

Malcolm Bell.

FEARS that local councillors might resign from Shetland Charitable Trust after a stormy meeting last month have receded.

On Friday afternoon, trustees met informally to discuss their differences and find a way forward.

The issue arose when the trust discussed its annual budget including a reduction of £83,500 to the rural care model.

The trust subsidises Shetland’s network of small care homes to the tune of £2.5 million, part of an agreement between the council and the trust reached in 2010.

However, when councillors sitting on the trust were excluded from discussing the reduction in the annual budget following legal advice, they walked out of the trust meeting leaving relationships in disarray.

A small working group, consisting of trust chairman Bobby Hunter, independent trustee Jimmy Smith, council convener Malcolm Bell and councillor Drew Ratter, will now look at ways to avoid a similar stand-off from happening again.

Following the meeting, Bell said it was “absolutely vital” that the trust and the council find a way to work together “because we need to provide the best service we can to the people of Shetland”.

He added: “If we can’t get round the conflict of interest, then we will have to try to work up a protocol to best manage it so that the trust can still operate and council trustees can still as full a part as possible.”

Hunter added: “What we are doing now is trying to find a methodology of knowing where we are all at and anticipating such problems and overcoming them before they get anywhere near the trust.”

The trust is due to review its set-up before 2017 as was agreed when the latest restructuring of Shetland Charitable Trust was agreed in 2012.