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Council / SIC staffing resources ‘really stretched’

STAFFING resources at Shetland Islands Council (SIC) are “really stretched” at the moment, according to one senior elected member.

Cecil Smith, who represents Lerwick South, sounded the warning at a meeting of the SIC’s audit committee on Tuesday.

But his proposal to extend deadlines for staff to respond to internal audit recommendations lost out in a vote.

Cecil Smith.

Instead, an amendment by Shetland West’s Liz Peterson won the day – with the councillor saying the recommendations needed to be dealt with as soon as possible.

A report to councillors showed that more than 70 recommendations made by internal auditors remained outstanding as of 31 October.

Between June and October a total of 30 recommendations had been satisfactorily implemented.

Smith said some recommendations had a revised due date of the end of December, and questioned if these were doable.

Corporate services director Christine Ferguson said there was a hope that some will be dealt with in that time frame.

But she said it is often the case that in council departments other work has to take priority, causing delays.

“We are having to take some tough decisions in prioritising the work we can actually focus on at any one time,” Ferguson said.

It comes as a significant number of vacancies remain across all council departments.

In debate Smith said it was the lack of resources within the SIC that was causing the delays with audit recommendations.

He also felt that sometimes this bears on elected members.

“At times we ask for additional reports, additional seminars, additional this, additional that,” Smith said, “and that takes away from the day to day operation of the organisation and the departments.”

“I think we need to bear in mind that this organisation is really stretched as far as resources of staff goes,” he added.

Smith attempted to extend the revised deadlines for audit recommendations to the end of March 2024 to give officers extra time.

But Peterson said she was keen have the recommendations to be dealt with as soon as possible, and her amendment won the vote four to three.

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