Council accused of serial incompetence over money

A COUNCILLOR has hit out at the “serial incompetence” demonstrated by the leadership of the council which could cost taxpayers in Shetland over £8m with nothing to show for it and said he would be reporting the matter to Audit Scotland.

Lerwick South member Jonathan Wills estimates that around two thirds of the £3m spent to date on the project to build a new Anderson High School has been squandered, along with £1.9m on the aborted Bressay Bridge and the possibility of having to pay back more than £4.5m to Lerwick Port Authority (LPA) after it submitted a legal claim against the council over the project.

Dr Wills was speaking in response to a damning report from the council’s finance chief Graham Johnston which went before a meeting of the audit and scrutiny committee on Wednesday. As revealed in last week’s Shetland Times, the report highlighted that the council has spent £6.1m of public money on three major infrastructure projects – the proposed new AHS, the Bressay transport link and the Mareel cinema and music venue – without a single brick being laid.

In his report, Mr Johnston stated that councillors were considering too many projects in an arbitrary and isolated fashion and he told the committee there was “a tendency to fail to come to once-and-for-all decisions” and spend lots of money while “not getting very far”.

Committee members agreed that it was an excellent report and lamented that it had not come 20 years earlier.

Vice-chairman Allison Duncan blamed the previous council, which he described as “gutless” for failing to take decisions when it was necessary and said the 2007 intake of councillors were “taking over deadwood”.

But Caroline Miller said members should not try to shift the blame onto others and that it was vital to get the input of officials into the matter of how capital projects are run. Chairwoman and chamber veteran Florence Grains said some councillors have shown “total disregard for council decisions” and that this council is “no better at that than any one before”.


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