New SIC chief executive Alistair Buchan came face to face with all councillors this week for the first time since taking up the post for what he described as “very positive” initial discussions about how to react to major criticisms in the Accounts Commission’s recent report on the local authority.
In a statement this afternoon, Mr Buchan said an informal seminar with members on Wednesday afternoon had gone well and he would now be putting a formal report with ideas to tackle the malaise within the SIC before members for a public session of the Full Council on 15th September.
He said: “It is the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to meet with all members collectively. I gave them a briefing from my perspective of the key issues the council faces. I have met individually with members over the past three weeks, as well as the senior officials who report to me, to hear their views.
“I can tell you that my discussions with members have been very positive and they are under no illusion as to the scale of the task we face. They recognise the need for change and it is my job to ensure that this happens from the staff side. There is collective support and a willingness from members to do what is required. I’ve said to them that the improvement plan which I’m working on should be the council’s top priority for the next 12 months and I will support them together with staff in driving this forward.”
Mr Buchan said he was looking for a “rigorous but supportive” approach aided by elected members, staff and – he hopes – from colleagues elsewhere in local government circles. It is understood that he believes the use of contacts from other local authorities built up during his decade at the helm with Orkney Islands Council can be particularly helpful in ushering in a new era for the SIC.
Convener Sandy Cluness said he welcomed the Accounts Commission’s report, which described the council as “haphazard” and identified shortcomings in governance and leadership, as a “catalyst for change for the better”. The SIC has to deliver a formal response by November.
“It’s a detailed document which deserves proper and lengthy consideration,” said Mr Cluness. “We might not agree on every point in the report, but I can assure you that we will do what is required to take the council forward. This process will require further informal discussions to enable members to share their views and to support our chief executive.”