New council committee positions finalised amid plea for better names

Efforts to reorganise the SIC’s political structure continued today, with councillors electing colleagues to 14 chair and vice-chair positions on a range of committees, new and old.

Members had earlier this month approved the general thrust of restructuring plans from chief executive Alistair Buchan aimed at making council politics function more smoothly. That included the creation of a dual council leadership, resulting in vice-convener Josie Simpson effectively usurping convener Sandy Cluness as the local authority’s political leader with Mr Cluness retaining the title but playing a more “civic” role.

An 11-strong executive committee has been created, although councillors have decided they need more private seminars to define its precise membership. Mr Simpson, Mr Cluness and the chairs of the four main committees will be joined by five other councillors.

Under the biggest structural change the unwieldy services committee will be broken up into two separate bodies. The provisionally titled “children, families and learning” committee will take care of education, young people and adult learning. A separate “communities, health and wellbeing” committee will have a broad remit including social care, housing, poverty, the voluntary sector, arts, culture, leisure and sport.

Some members have objected to the wordy suggested names, in particular for the four bigger committees. Rick Nickerson used today’s Full Council meeting to renew his appeal for committee titles to be written in “plain English”.

Councillor Alastair Cooper’s proposal that membership of the five smaller committees should remain unchanged until elections in May 2012 gained unanimous backing. He said it would be “nonsense” to change their make-up with only a year left. That applies to the audit and standards committee (formerly audit and scrutiny), the “development management” committee (formerly planning) and the licensing, harbour and Shetland College boards (unchanged).

The restructuring will take effect from mid-May, and all remaining business should be tidied up next month.

This week’s meeting saw West Side councillor Florence Grains unopposed in retaining her role as chairwoman of audit and standards, with Allison Duncan continuing as her sidekick.

Planning board chairman Frank Robertson is to take charge of its replacement body, the “development and management” committee.

Central ward member Andrew Hughson will continue at the helm of the Shetland College board, with Laura Baisley serving as vice-chairwoman.

Meanwhile Robert Henderson overcame Jim Henry 13-5 to become chairman of the harbour board. His vice-chairman will be Mr Cooper.

Lerwick North councillor Caroline Miller pipped former education spokesman Bill Manson by 11 votes to nine to become vice-chairwoman of the “children, families and learning” committee. It includes responsibility for schools at a time when widespread closures are being considered. Mrs Miller will assist chairwoman Betty Fullerton, who defeated Mr Manson earlier in the month.

Mr Duncan was appointed unopposed as vice-chairman of the “communities, health and wellbeing” committee, which is to be chaired by Cecil Smith. As a result of the latter promotion, Mr Smith is downgrading from chairman to vice-chairman of the licensing board, with Jim Budge stepping into his shoes.

One of the less voluble elected members, Addie Doull, beat Gary Robinson 11-9 to become vice-chairman for economy and development. That committee is to be chaired by Mr Cooper following Mr Simpson’s promotion to serve as political leader for the next year or so.

Head of legal Jan Riise pointed out that any members sitting on external bodies would have to consider whether any conflicts of interest might arise following the new appointments.


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