Council / Mixed views on councillors’ involvement to date in response to audit report

The best value report raised ‘serious concerns’ about the SIC delivering best value

Lerwick Town Hall.

CONCERN has been raised over the level of involvement elected members have had so far in the response to a mixed audit report Shetland Islands Council received in the summer.

It comes after council leaders were told by Scottish public watchdog Accounts Commission they need to increase their pace and focus to deliver urgent change, particularly around the quest to become financially sustainable.

Councillors on the policy and resources committee heard on Monday morning that an action plan has already been developed by officers to take forward the priorities in the best value report, and this will be presented to elected members at a later date.

But with the audit report suggesting that Shetland’s councillors needed to take more strategic leadership, questions were raised why elected members have not yet been involved in the action plan process.

Shetland West member Liz Peterson said: “I was quite disappointed that this action plan has already been completed by officers.


“This would have been a really good opportunity for officers and members to work collaboratively.”

Shetland Central’s Catherine Hughson also said councillor involvement in the process would have encouraged ownership and a better understanding of the issues.

But while Lerwick South member John Fraser said he had sympathy with their views, he suggested if officers did not push forward the plan they would have been criticised for a lack of progress.

He added that the action plan is only a draft and can be amended by councillors.

Fraser added that even if councillors did have involvement in the full process, it could be hard to get all 23 members – some of whom have “strong opinions and egos” – to make progress when speed was of the essence.

He also said a recent seminar saw around 50 per cent of councillors attend and suggested it would be hard to get all members around the table.

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Meanwhile Lerwick North member Gary Robinson said he felt the response to the audit report would not be a case of “reinventing the wheel” and added that he was “fairly relaxed” about the process.

Councillor leader Emma Macdonald added that the timescale to respond to the audit report was “not a very long time”. The Accounts Commission said a follow-up is due in 18 months.

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