There has been great anger and dismay expressed throughout the isles at the decision by a small cabal of Shetland Islands Council employees not to award the Promote Shetland contract to any outside body (Trust loses Promote Shetland contract; SN, 07/06/2017)
This was done on the grounds that none of the bids received reached “the required standard”.
Democratically-elected councillors had already taken the decision that the contract should be continued for another five years and that outside bids should be sought.
I believe this was unacceptable to some council officials, and the aim of the tendering process became to prevent any outside body, and specifically Shetland Amenity Trust, from being successful in bidding. A modified Promote Shetland remit would then be taken on directly by the development department.
As someone who has worked closely on a freelance basis with the current Shetland Amenity Trust/Promote Shetland team over the past eight years, I am clearly not writing from a totally disinterested position.
But one aspect which is particularly sickening is the way what seems to be an entirely cynical and self-interested ploy by officials within the council to negate a democratic decision will leave three full-time Promote Shetland workers jobless.
Under what’s called TUPE (the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006) rules, any award of the Promote Shetland contract to another provider would safeguard the posts of the current workers.
However, by failing to choose either the amenity trust or anyone else, and doubtless by subsequently ‘modifying’ the terms of the contracted activity, it seems the council will have no responsibility for the redundant workers.
The development committee and the full council are set to meet in the coming days for the first time as newly-elected members. They have it within their power to review the tendering process and to rescind the decision taken by a small number of not-totally-disinterested officials.
If the contract is not then awarded immediately – and I believe it should be given to the amenity trust team – there will be a period of perhaps six months during which Shetland will not be represented on the world stage, will not be promoted effectively, and will lose its hard-won 10-year advantage over any other community in the UK in digital, visual and audio promotion.
Not to mention some highly motivated and able individuals, the entire suite of coastal webcams and other major initiatives such as live streaming of Up Helly Aa.
Why this has been allowed to happen should be the subject of an inquiry within the council.