SIC chief executive David Clark has announced the creation of a new senior management position to help oversee the drawing up of a long-term list of priority capital projects and is abandoning the title of assistant chief executive, currently held by Willie Shannon.
Mr Clark said on Monday that a position of head of asset strategy was being created having been discussed with a group of senior councillors earlier this summer, with a remit to address the council’s asset, planning and procurement needs.
The move has prompted criticism from councillor Jonathan Wills for what he said was the “shabby and peremptory” treatment of Mr Shannon, who Dr Wills believes the chief executive had “effectively demoted” as part of the shake-up.
Mr Clark said he could not comment on where it would leave Mr Shannon, who is on annual leave this week, but that the “details and implications are being worked through in consultation with the individuals affected”.
But Dr Wills said the news was a matter of “great concern” and he was irked to be informed that the decision had been approved “by a group of senior councillors in a private meeting”. He intends to raise the matter with the full council “at the earliest opportunity”.
He said: “I question the authority of this unofficial group and believe the action may be in breach of the council’s obligations under its agreements with the staff trade unions, to say nothing of employment law.”
The new post is to be advertised internally in the near future, but Mr Clark did not want to speculate on the salary the post would command. He said: “The idea is to get somebody from within the council who has the enthusiasm and drive to take things forward. Whoever does this is going to affect the community for the next generation – I want somebody that’s going to be committed to the job.”
Mr Clark said it was part of the drive to create a five-year capital programme priorities list to replace the year-by-year system which he inherited from predecessor Morgan Goodlad, and that he would eventually like it to become a 25-year programme.
But Dr Wills believes the change is “premature” given that the audit and scrutiny committee is presently considering the future governance of the SIC. “It is certainly not acceptable to do so by executive fiat, without first discussing it with the full council. I know some of my colleagues also feel disquiet about the decision.
“Mr Shannon is a valued expert on local authority law and procedure. He has been a loyal, conscientious and very effective servant of this council for many years and is greatly respected in this community. The way he has been treated seems to me shabby and peremptory.”
A group of senior councillors comprising convener Sandy Cluness, vice-convener Josie Simpson and the various committee chairs and vice-chair meets with Mr Clark and his management team at least once every six weeks.
Mr Clark said the councillors in question had been in full agreement that the reorganisation was “a matter for me to deal with rather than put it before elected members”. He added: “I’m absolutely confident that I’ve followed the correct procedure, and am doing the right thing.”