New blood is being drafted in to senior elected positions following a mid-term reshuffle of committee posts at the town hall.
Four councillors have been replaced as chairmen or vice-chairmen in their respective committees by members who were newly-elected onto the council in 2012.
The move is regarded as a chance for new incumbents still serving their first term of office to flex their political muscles now they have a couple of years under their belts.
It follows a far-reaching review of senior positions within the SIC, as required by the terms of its constitution.
The shake-up dominated proceedings at the town hall today. But although some of the decisions were seen as creating a tremor within the authority, the council’s most senior elected members remain in post. No challenge was mounted for either leader Gary Robinson or convener Malcolm Bell.
However, one long-standing councillor saw today’s moves as a rearguard action against established members who have led the council through some of its hardest times to date.
Jonathan Wills said the decisions reached by the full council amounted to “mutiny in the county” by a number of elected members getting “cold feet” over policies which have proved unpopular with the electorate. He said that undermined the work of what had been, in his opinion, the best council since the oil deal was signed.
First to fall victim today was vice-chairman of social services committee Allison Duncan, who was outvoted for the position by 11 votes to seven in favour of North Isles member Gary Cleaver.
The move was described as “shocking” by Dr Wills, who cited Mr Duncan’s key involvement in the far-reaching deal reached with Scottish and UK governments earlier this year over the council’s historic housing debt as just one example of how much the South Mainland councillor had done for the isles.
He drew on figures which showed Mr Duncan gained the second largest number of votes during the 2007 council elections, and the highest number in 2012.
“That was the voters’ judgment of a councillor they respect, trust and rely upon. Now let’s hear yours” he demanded of the Flea’s detractors.
Other changes were:
• Depute chairman of environment and transport committee Michael Stout was handed chairmanship after beating the incumbent chairman Allan Wishart 11-7.
• Amanda Westlake was appointed unopposed as vice- chairwoman of the audit committee, replacing Dr Wills.
• Peter Campbell replaced Drew Ratter as chairman of the Shetland College Board, following a 12-6 vote. Until now Mr Campbell has served as Mr Ratter’s depute.
In another significant development, Billy Fox was handed the newly-created role of depute leader. It is hoped his unopposed appointment will help ease the burden placed on political leader Gary Robinson.
Mr Robinson said Mr Fox had the necessary skills to devote to the task.
Similarly, members agreed to create the post of depute convener to support Malcolm Bell, although exactly who will fill those shoes has not been decided upon yet.
Earlier, members approved changes to the remit of several of its committees.
The most significant alteration is the replacement of the executive committee with a new policy and resources committee instead.
Under recommendations presented by the council’s legal boss, Jan Riise, the new committee would have more teeth and would be able to “call in” council decisions.
Other changes include making the Shetland College board a sub-committee of education and families, making environment and transport accountable for transport planning – rather than development – and renaming the rather clumsily titled audit and standards to just simply the audit committee.
• For full story, see this week’s Shetland Times.