Shetland Islands Council has received a “clean report card” from the Accounts Commission, in the words of political leader Gary Robinson.
The positive judgement is in stark contrast to the criticism the authority received in June 2010, during a two day public hearing in the wake of the Dave Clark affair.
At that time, SIC was lambasted for its lack of strategic direction and accountability, and its poor leadership and financial management. Additional monitoring was put in place by the commission to ensure improvements were made.
But according to the most recent follow-up report, the council has made significant progress in these areas, with particular attention drawn to improved relations among councillors and officials.
While the commission acknowledged that real financial challenges lay ahead for the authority, the report highlighted better management of finances and information, along with the fact the council’s accounts have been accepted without qualification by the external auditor for the first time since 2005.
The positive findings mean that SIC will be treated like any other Scottish local authority, with monitoring reduced to a single annual audit.
Chairman of the accounts commission John Baillie said, “This is a very positive report. There has been a real desire to tackle long-standing problems at Shetland Islands Council. I am pleased that this has led to improvements in the way the council is run.
“It is vital that this positive momentum is maintained as the council faces major challenges to reshape services and continue to deliver for the people of Shetland in the years ahead.”
SIC convener Malcolm Bell welcomed the commission’s praise. “It is easy to forget how far the SIC has come since the Accounts Commission carried out its two-day public hearing back in 2010”, he said.
“This is a very different council now, and we must continue to build on the intensive work which has taken us to this point. There are significant challenges ahead, but the report and the commission’s findings are a testament to the hard work of staff and members over the past two years.”
Political leader Gary Robinson agreed. “I’m confident” he added, “that given our clear priorities for the future, this council can go from strength to strength in the coming years”.