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Council / ‘Positives outweigh the negatives’ for SIC in latest external audit report

Lerwick Town Hall.

SHETLAND Islands Council (SIC) has received a largely positive external audit report for the 2020/21 financial year.

The report, from auditors Deloitte, was welcomed by councillors at meetings today (Wednesday).

The audit looks at areas of the council like financial sustainability and management, governance and value for money.

The report concluded that the SIC has “strong financial management in place”.

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When it comes to financial sustainability, it said that the council’s revised medium term financial plan is “underpinned by realistic assumptions and financial projections”.

But it said: “Business cases are not implemented as initially agreed, resulting in additional costs and delays in the achievement of savings, undermining the effective of scrutiny within the council.”

The report also praised the leadership of SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison during the pandemic.

But weakness were noted in the council’s structure through difficulties in fully resourcing committees and leaks of information to the local media.

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It also highlighted referrals to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards of Public Life in Scotland.

When it comes to best value, the audit report said that “while the council continues to demonstrate improvements in a number of areas and is committed to improvement, further improvements are needed in key areas and the council needs to ensure the pace of change is appropriate”.

There is also a warning that given the impact of the pandemic, there is a risk that the council’s capital plan for 2021/22 and its longer term asset investment plan will be “unachievable”.

The report was presented to members of the SIC’s audit committee and full council on Wednesday.

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Deloitte is offering an “unmodified opinion”, meaning that the auditors are happy with the financial statements provided by the SIC.

The auditors’ Conor Healy said the fact that there were ‘green’ results for a set of a quality indicators was “exceptional in the current environment”.

He also said some of the documents prepared by the council were an “exemplar of good practice”.

Audit committee chairman Allison Duncan said he felt the positives in the report outweighed the negatives.

He said he believed the council had “excelled” itself.

Shetland West member Catherine Hughson told a meeting of the full council that it was the first year she could remember where the SIC was not given any recommendations from the external auditor.

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