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Council / Question mark over procedures after landfill dumper bought

VAS executive director Catherine Hughson: 'we cover everything from cradle to grave' - Photo: Hans J Marter/ShetNewsShetland west councillor Catherine Hughson: 'we so wrapped up in process it actually stops us from delivering services '. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council spent £150,000 on a second-hand dumper for its landfill site – but only after leasing a replacement machine for 14 months – a move that drew criticism at the environment and transport committee on Tuesday.

Infrastructure services director John Smith told the committee that the second-hand purchase represented “best value” for the council and the machine would have some residual worth once its work life was over.

The council had leased a replacement machine at £2,400 per month after its own dumper broke down in August 2017. It was in turn replaced last October by a machine bought under an exception to standing orders that limit purchases that are not put out to tender to £50,000.

Money for leased goods has to come from the hard-pressed revenue budget that has been the main target of Scottish Government cuts to local authority support.

West Mainland councillor Catherine Hughson said that the SIC tended to get so bound up in process that it did not get things done quickly, and that could have negative implications for finances.

A report by waste management team leader Colin Bragg says that while alternative options to like-for-like replacement were explored – none were found until the five-year-old dumper was bought from Garriock Brothers. It is expected to have a 10-year service life.

Hughson said later: “What worried me about the report coming forward today is the length of time it took from the dumper being broken down to actually getting a replacement, which was about 14 months and the actual cost to the council.

“It’s not only about environment and transport, but the council as a whole – are we so wrapped up in process it actually stops us from delivering services and getting done the things we need to do?”

“I would just like to understand what the process was that held up for 14 months the procurement for the dumper.”

Hughson said that she had seen the same delays in other committees, whether concerning recruitment or procurement.

Smith said that the replacement dumper was a “significant amount of money” and that all options had to be looked at.

“Money is tight all round so we are trying to look for the most cost effective long-term solution. When you are considering looking for a second-hand option then you are constrained by what’s available.

“We arrived at a good solution to end up with and if we could have done that a bit quicker, that would have been ideal. It is important to come to the right conclusion at the right time rather than just rushing to the first solution.”