A member of the team of consultants brought in by Alistair Buchan to knock Shetland Islands Council into shape has been appointed to the key corporate services director post on a temporary basis.
Brian Lawrie, who has provided support to the finance department over the past year as part of the council’s “improvement programme”, will be working on a temporary contract starting on Monday and finishing at the end of March 2012.
The interim appointment was announced today, a week after a candidate due to be interviewed for the post pulled out at short notice. The role was the last of five director positions which remained unfilled following this summer’s management restructuring.
For the next four months Mr Lawrie, a former executive director of finance and resources at Fife Council, will have responsibility for the SIC’s capital programme, human resources, finance, legal and IT departments.
The council’s political leader Josie Simpson said the SIC’s appointments panel welcomed the decision. “The fact we were unable to appoint to this post through the recent management restructuring was disappointing,” he said. “So I am pleased we have taken the pro-active step of getting someone with Brian’s experience on board until we are able to put in place a more permanent solution.”
In a statement the council described Mr Lawrie as a “widely respected figure” in Scottish local government. He was first drafted into Shetland last November, two months after retiring from Fife Council. In 2005 he won an award for public sector finance director of the year and he has also chaired the finance directors section of the Scottish Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.
Mr Buchan said it was crucial that the post be filled given the huge challenges faced by the local authority. “It was clearly very important that we filled this position,” he said. “As has been reported, we haven’t been successful on a couple of occasions recently. It was vital that we didn’t allow that situation to continue into the longer term.”
He continued: “Brian has worked for us in the past so has the advantage of knowing what he’s coming to and, in many ways, can hit the ground running. I’ve commented before on his excellent background and feel we’d have been hard pressed to get a better person in the circumstances.”
Mr Lawrie said he felt the council had made “significant strides” in the past six months and he was “delighted” to lend his support for the next phase of re-organisation and cost-cutting.
“It is regrettable that to date the council has been unable to fill this post on a long-term basis, as corporate services within the council are crucial to driving the change agenda and supporting other services to ensure we deliver the most cost-effective outcomes for the residents of Shetland.”
Mr Buchan added that he was “very conscious” the council was in the middle of a cost-cutting exercise and needed to be “consistent” with its messages. “However, I have said before that we need support to help us move forward as an organisation. Although senior managers obviously cost money, I have no problem whatsoever in assuring folk that this arrangement delivers a good deal for this council.”