Community councillor to protest at Market Cross about SIC woes

A Lerwick community councillor has become so infuriated with behaviour in the Town Hall in recent months that she is heading to the Market Cross at midday tomorrow to stage an hour-long protest.

In a letter to this newspaper, Kathy Greaves says she is “appalled, outraged and angry” following last week’s revelations about the council settling for £400,000 less than they were owed in loans by local knitwear firm Judane. It is, she says, the latest example of what she describes as the council’s “impotence” and “seeming lack of care and professionalism” among those leading the SIC.

Mrs Greaves says she is taking to the street six days before Christmas, dressed in black, to demonstrate a vote of no confidence in the council and is inviting anyone else who shares her feelings to join her.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many council staff at various levels of the hierarchy are openly talking about the damage to morale and the seemingly intractable position the SIC finds itself in as a truly dreadful year nears its conclusion.

One worker said this week that she felt “embarrassed” to work for the organisation and that senior management and the local authority’s 22 councillors owed it to the 3,000 members of staff to “start behaving themselves” to ensure that the SIC’s name stopped being “dragged through the mud” week in, week out.

It comes after it was confirmed that Scotland’s controller of audit and Cosla would be coming to Shetland to take a closer look at how the SIC is being run. That announcement followed an endless raft of complaints and investigations – many of which are still outstanding – related to a series of troubles which have enveloped the council over the past six months.

Last week, six councillors called for a full investigation into allegations they are levelling against SIC chief executive David Clark, a matter which has been referred to the council’s lawyers by convener Sandy Cluness.

One of the six, Lerwick South councillor Jonathan Wills, said this week that he had again written to Mr Cluness reminding him of the need to respond to the complaint. “It’s been 10 days now and I’d like to know what’s happening,” he said.

In October, Dr Wills was reported to the Standards Commission for an alleged breach of the councillors’ code of conduct by Mr Clark, executive director Hazel Sutherland, head of legal Jan Riise, Mr Cluness and vice-convener Josie Simpson after a vitrolic outburst against Mr Clark. That followed the chief executive’s exoneration on charges that he swore and threatened violence against Dr Wills in a phone call in September.

This summer, the isles’ two Liberal Democrat politicians, MP Alistair Carmichael and MSP Tavish Scott, took the unusual step of intervening in local authority matters by reporting the council to financial watchdog Audit Scotland over the treatment of assistant chief executive Willie Shannon.

Mr Shannon’s post had originally been deleted by Mr Clark, but after being off work for four months it is now expected that he will return early in the New Year. Mr Scott said this week he had had several conversations with Audit Scotland since writing to it and was “more than satisfied” with the way it was addressing various council-related issues.

Dr Wills has also complained to Audit Scotland about the council’s handling of allegations that Mr Clark held a drinking session with surveyor Andrew Laidler in his office after the completion of the review into the siting of the new Anderson High School.


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