Editorial: The Old Rock 15.5.09

Shetland Islands Council faces a task of great importance next week with the appointment of its new chief executive.

There is already much speculation about who may or may not be in the running, but early indications are that the five people to be interviewed on Monday comprise three who already work for the SIC, plus two others from somewhere on the UK mainland.

It will be vitally important to choose the right candidate, who ideally will possess a wide range of experience and a thorough grasp of local government affairs. Last time round the council made what was seen as a bold move at the time by appointing someone with no such knowledge. As we said on that occasion, if it worked Shetland would be in the vanguard, but if it failed those who made the decision would be ridiculed.

The new incumbent, whoever he or she may be, must be somebody who can advise on policy and co-ordinate the authority in an effective manner, a first class manager who can motivate staff to produce results and a good communicator.

A background in, say, financial or legal affairs, may be seen as an advantage but should not be essential. In a local authority as diverse as Shetland’s, an understanding of other disciplines is equally important.

In the past decade successive régimes have promised much but delivered little. By now we should already have, for example, a new Anderson High School and council HQ on greenfield sites, thereby freeing up much-needed space in town for more realistic development, and possibly fixed links to at least some of the isles. But prevarication has consistently been the name of the game.

Whether a new chief executive can help alleviate age-old deficiencies remains to be seen. But they can at least try. Noises are already emanating from the Town Hall about restoring a more manageable system whereby committees mirror departments, as opposed to the unwieldy structure where different services are lumped together. That would be a good start.

Maybe someone who carries no baggage would be better able to influence a new beginning. We sincerely hope that councillors make the correct choice.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.