Council / SIC working to address issues raised in audit report, chief executive says

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council chief executive Maggie Sandison says an improvement plan will be put in place to address concerns raised in a new audit report on the local authority.

She said the local authority has been “working for some time” in areas such as planning for financial sustainability and engaging with the community.

A report on how the council is delivering best value was presented to members of Scotland’s Accounts Commission at a meeting on Thursday.

It was a mixed affair, with concern raised over the pace of transformation and that elected members were not providing the “strategic leadership needed to co-ordinate and drive forward plans”.

There were numerous recommendations for the council to take forward, including performance management, aligning plans and strategies and undertaking more formal community engagement.

Commission chairman William Moyes said at a meeting on Thursday morning that he felt it showed some evidence of a “badly led council” in which political leadership had been “pushed aside”.


But a number of strengths were noted in the report and at Thursday’s meeting, including the standard of service delivery.

Speaking after Thursday’s meeting, Sandison said work is underway to addressing the recommendations.

“We’ve been working closely with the audit team over the past months and welcome this report, which acknowledges good performance in many of the key areas of work we undertake on behalf of the community,” she said.

“Our services perform well, we have among the highest service satisfaction scores in the country, and we do take action to improve our performance where that is seen to be weaker.

“We’re particularly pleased to see the work we’ve done with partners during the pandemic highlighted – the past two and a half years have been a difficult time for everyone, and many of the challenges we have faced still continue.

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“There are, of course, issues highlighted in the report; for example, around the perennial problem of planning for financial sustainability, inconsistency around performance management and reporting, and how we improve our engagement with the community.

“We have been working for some time to address these issues and the report does acknowledge some recent improvements in some areas.”

Sandison said work is underway across the council to develop a plan which will “address the areas of improvement and demonstrate to the auditors our commitment to delivering best value”.

Meanwhile council leader Emma Macdonald, who was appointed to the role following May’s local government elections, welcomed that the report noted good performance of SIC services and appropriate investment in communities.

“There are of course areas we need to take action on to improve and I am very much committed to this,” she said.


“I am personally very proud of the way this council has continued to provide services that have scored highly, particularly in light of dealing with the impacts of a pandemic.

“In my experience everyone involved in the council wants to achieve the best possible outcomes they can for the community.

“We will continue to work together to achieve that whilst also acknowledging the challenges we face financially and the need to address the areas of improvement identified.”

One elected member who is not shy of voicing his view on the governance of the council is Shetland Central’s Ian Scott.

The independent member said he “readily concurred” with the commission’s chair’s view on the report and the council.

“I have repeatedly said that not only has the political leadership been pushed aside, it has scarcely existed, and what feeble leadership there has been has slavishly supported Tory/Lib Dem austerity,” Scott said.


“The report speaks of required savings – savings required by whom? – but we all know that ‘savings’ mean cuts in services and social provision.

“How, therefore, can we possibly claim to commit to reducing inequalities, as we do, when we are also committed to ‘savings’.

“‘Savings’ lead to inequality and poverty. The briefest knowledge of economic history tells us that there is only one way for western economies to ease poverty and inequality, and it is certainly not by cutting spending. Fine for the wealthy though.”

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