By NEIL RIDDELL
A shortlist of five candidates, which is understood to include three local faces, has been drawn up as the search for a replacement for SIC chief executive Morgan Goodlad nears its conclusion.
After 40 applications were received from around the world for the £97,000-a-year post, a council sub-committee met twice last week to discuss the merits of the various applicants before narrowing the candidates down to the five-strong shortlist.
It is also understood that at least one of the candidates is a woman, leaving open the possibility of the SIC’s first ever female chief executive being appointed in four days’ time.
All 22 councillors are due to see presentations from the chosen shortlist at Lerwick Town Hall on Monday, before interviews take place on Tuesday morning. It is expected that the appointment will then be announced later on Tuesday.
SIC convener Sandy Cluness appeared to rule out any notion that another person would be appointed with experience in the private sector, as was the case with Mr Goodlad.
Mr Cluness told The Shetland Times: “The calibre of the candidates was reasonably good, but we wanted somebody with local government experience, knowledge of the islands, a wide-ranging kind of scope, so it was very difficult to get them down to five, but I’m quite confident we’ve got a good five. Hopefully we’ll get a first class chief executive out of them.”
Mr Goodlad – who has been in the post for 10 years – is due to stand down from his position at the end of the month. Depending on who is appointed to replace him, executive director of infrastructure Gordon Greenhill or executive director of education and social care Hazel Sutherland may be asked to stand in as acting chief executive for an interim period, though both have been linked with the top job themselves. Other possible candidates within the SIC include finance chief Graham Johnston and deputy chief executive Willie Shannon.
The new face at the helm will face a number of significant tasks in these financially challenging times as the SIC grapples with ways of getting over its habit of dipping into Shetland’s oil reserves in an unsustainable fashion. He or she will be installed two years into the term of the current council, which is likely to sit until May 2012 due to proposed changes in legislation which mean there are likely to be two consecutive five-year terms in order to harmonise national and local election dates.
A bulging in-tray will include how to find £4 million a year to meet the terms of the single status pay agreement, while a recent report from Audit Scotland was heavily critical of the council’s spending habits and particularly its eye-watering £37 million funding gap for would-be capital projects – a figure which does not include the small matter of an estimated £49 million new Anderson High School.
Also dating from Mr Goodlad’s tenure is the possibility of a £5 million liability after Lerwick Port Authority issued a compensation claim for losses incurred as a result of the Bressay bridge fiasco. The SIC has repeatedly refused to say whether or not it is covered against the insurance claim and a resolution is unlikely until next year at the soonest.