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Council / Councillor’s growing concern at volume of reports at meetings

A COUNCILLOR says he is getting “more and more concerned” about the volume of reports SIC staff are having to prepare for meetings.

Robbie McGregor made the comment at Tuesday’s meeting of the full council amid concern over staff workload.

It came after Lerwick South member John Fraser asked, not for the first time, for the objectives and activities of the Zetland Educational Trust to be re-examined.

Councillor Robbie McGregor. Photo: Andrew Gibson/Millgaet Media

His understanding was that these have not been updated since the trust was formed in the 1960s.

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison apologised for the work not being done yet.

She said it was down to issues with staffing capacity and the “need to prioritise where we will have the greatest impact”.

Sandison promised to provide an update in six months time.

Shetland South councillor McGregor noted Sandison’s comments on staff capacity and said: “I have some helpful advice to offer.

“I’m getting more and more concerned about the volume of reports that come before us, and if officers are under pressure I would have thought the quickest way is to cut down the amount of time that they have to spend preparing these reports.

“I hope that’s taken in the spirit intended.”

SIC leader Emma Macdonald highlighted that many reports are required to be prepared.

“I appreciate this is something that we have heard a number of times around this chamber, but the reality is a lot of the reports we receive are things that we have to do,” she said.

“So things like our audited accounts, annual reports – they’re lengthy, but they’re things that we have to consider.

“Ultimately, we have choices about how much of the reports we choose to read, but I’ve also sat at the table where members have not been happy with the reports because they didn’t have all the information in them.

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“I think it’s a difficult balance to get right. But ultimately I suppose you choose how much of it you’d like to read.”

McGregor added that his point was it could give officers a “wee break” and attend to matters of “real importance” rather than creating more paperwork.

Macdonald then replied that elected members also have role in the matter, through asking SIC staff for compiling reports on particular issues.

“We have to take a little bit of that responsibility,” she said.

Workload pressure on staff is a growing concern within the council, with a number of vacancies across the local authority’s various departments.

Elsewhere at Tuesday’s full council meeting there was an acknowledgement that services may need to be redesigned to reflect current staffing numbers.

It comes as a ‘vacancy factor’ is applied to SIC budgets this year.

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