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Council / Project managing islands deal programme could cost council more than £100,000 a year

Head of the SIC development department Neil Grant. Photo: Shetland News
Head of the SIC development department Neil Grant. Photo: Shetland News

THE COST to the council of managing the £100 million Islands Deal investment programme has been teased out – while some worries have also raised over the demands which may be placed on staff.

Development director Neil Grant told a meeting of the full Shetland Islands Council on Wednesday that it could potentially cost the local authority between £100,000 and £200,000 a year to manage the programme.

The Islands Deal, announced last year, will see the UK and Scottish governments commit a total of £100 million to growth projects in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles over a period of ten years.

Locally projects like the Knab redevelopment and decommissioning are in line to receive significant funding once full business cases are signed off.

But the cost to Shetland Islands Council for its part in managing the delivery of the deal over the decade could in effect stretch to between £1 million and £2 million, Grant said in response to questioning from elected member Moraig Lyall.

But he stressed the figures are only estimates at this time ahead of the full project business cases being worked through.

The amount spent on project managing would obviously be outstripped by the significant funding income due to come to Shetland through the deal.

Shetland West’s Catherine Hughson also sought clarity over whether the additional spend could result in reduction in normal council services.

“I wouldn’t want to speculate on that,” Grant said. “As a council we need to recognise the growth deal programme projects as being top, top level, very high impact projects.

“We shouldn’t be needing to reprioritise to any great degree, but I understand the point that you’re making.

“We have, I guess, limitations on the resource available to us, and as we detail those resources that are required further on those projects, that might displace other projects, but I’m speculating on that.”

Grant also said the target is for full business cases being signed off by mid-summer next year.

With the council reporting a number of vacancies across services over recent months, Lerwick member Amanda Hawick also questioned if officers are confident staff can carry out the work on top of their day-to-day duties.

Grant said the programme is “absolutely based on good project managers” in the council and the other organisations, but if they cannot be sourced directly officials will have to look for expertise externally.

Meanwhile council leader Steven Coutts and development committee chairman Alastair Cooper were picked to represent Shetland on an Islands Deal joint committee, which will also feature elected members from Orkney and the Western Isles.

The committee will be tasked with overseeing business cases for the various projects, and monitoring their delivery.

It is proposed that the three constituent authorities pay an equal share of the committee’s operational costs.

Chief executive Maggie Sandison will also feature on a programme management board, which will ensure proper process is in place and help to support the committee.

There will also be local programme boards, an advisory forum, a finance directors group and a legal and governance body.

Governance and law manager Jan Riise said Shetland was the first council to consider a report on the matter, with Orkney and the Western Isles due to follow in the coming weeks.