Shetland Islands Council has appointed James Gray, an audit manager with Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), as its new finance chief. Mr Gray is expected to start work with the local authority within three months after completing his notice period.
The appointment follows this week’s publication of the Accounts Commission’s latest findings, which highlighted concerns over the resources in the council’s finance department and stressed the need to make a permanent appointment to the executive finance manager position.
Mr Gray, who spent most of his childhood growing up in Shropshire and is currently based in Edinburgh, was in Shetland last summer on behalf of PwC to assist finance staff in completing the council’s accounts.
The new man will replace the soon-to-depart Hazel Sutherland, who was moved into the position on an interim basis following the retirement of long-standing head of finance Graham Johnston.
“Having worked closely with staff in finance last year, I have developed an understanding of the issues the council has faced in preparing good quality accounts,” Mr Gray said.
“I’m also very aware of the messages coming out of the recent Audit Scotland report and the challenges around delivering reductions in the budget over the next few years. I think that ensuring our financial sustainability is a key priority in order to ensure that Shetland Islands Council’s reserves remain intact for future generations of Shetlanders.
“I see this as a great opportunity for me to roll up my sleeves and contribute to addressing some of these issues.”
The council’s interim corporate services director Brian Lawrie welcomed the appointment, saying the role of finance chief was an important position for any local authority.
“James is well known and respected for the work he did last year on the accounts, so is starting from a strong position,” he said. “I’m conscious that there is a gap before he can start, owing to notice, but it’s better to wait a bit longer to get the right person on board.
“As well as appointing to this position, we have recruited a financial accountant to lead on the work around closing the annual accounts. I am therefore very confident we are addressing the issues raised by Audit Scotland and, coupled with the actions in the finance service improvement plan, we will soon be in a much better position to meet all our financial obligations.”