Round and round the ragged rock, part 23. The council’s new chief executive, David Clark, spoke this week of his early weeks in the job having been a “baptism of fire”. After yesterday’s decision by the council’s services committee to order an independent review into the siting of the new Anderson High School, three days after the planning board had approved the £49 million project for a new school at the Knab, he will doubtless be using much stonger language. Welcome back to Shetland, Mr Clark.
It is ironic that this decision was made shortly after his pledge to bring the new school in on time and on budget, a prospect that now looks hopeless given that it will be September before the review can be completed. The pledge will look even more hollow if that report reaches the conclusion that a new school can be built at Clickimin (logically if not practically the best location) much more cheaply and effectively, and councillors decide to change direction again.
It is doubly ironic that this is exactly the sort of mess Mr Clark was brought in to try to sort out. One of his first tasks will be to highlight the negative financial impact of councillors’ prevarication and flip-flopping. (In the case of the replacement for the Anderson High School, the council has spent an astounding 20 years trying and failing to get it right.) Already, more than £4 million has been spent on the Knab project. And it is imperative that we are now told how much it will cost in penalty clauses, if there are any, to abandon it. Of course it is possible that, even including any wasted expenditure, a new school at Clickimin might work out cheaper, but the point is that this sort of decision should have been made much, much earlier in the process. The review of sites was suggested last year by councillor Jonathan Wills but rejected by his fellow members.
As a footnote, the intemperate language in widespread use this week among councillors and the open lambasting of council officials marks a new low in public discourse in these isles. Please at least try to behave like grown ups.