Council staff told to vacate North Ness headquarters in Lerwick

Council workers based at the SIC’s North Ness premises have been told to vacate the building amid fears it could be suffering from structural problems.

The Shetland Times understands officials held high-level meetings this morning and, according to several sources, council vans have been loading items being taken from the Slap-owned property, commonly known as the White House.

In a statement Shetland Islands Council said it had been informed by Slap that structural work will have to be done within the building which will require “vacant possession”.

Arrangements are being made to decant staff and services into other properties in Lerwick.

The statement added staff had been informed of the situation, and that further information will be passed on to them by their managers as plans progress.

Existing telephone numbers will “migrate” with staff, and the council is promising to keep the public informed regarding the location of those face-to-face services provided within the building such as planning, or the cashiers’ desk.

Speaking to The Shetland Times, chief executive of Shetland Islands Council, Mark Boden, said he was unable to expand on the detail of what exactly was wrong with the building, insisting details of the faults were held by Slap.

SIC chief executive Mark Boden.
SIC chief executive Mark Boden.

For its part, Slap’s spokesman Paul Riddell said the organisation was opting not to expand on what the council had said in its initial statement.

“I’m not in a position to talk about what the structural work is,” Mr Boden said.

“What Slap want to do is come in and do some works for which they need the staff out of the building. We’re doing that as quickly as possible in order to let them do what they need to do as quickly as possible.”

He said there had been no indication of anything being wrong with the building until now.

“There have been the usual snagging matters, but nothing like this, no.”

He insisted there were no other buildings which could be susceptible to similar problems.

“It’s entirely related to this building.

“What’s happening now is the first department, which is finance, have moved, and we have opened our new reception in the housing department just across the car park at number six.

“As the days progress we’ll be moving the other teams into other buildings.”

Mr Boden said he did not know how many days the move would take, but insisted it would be “days rather than weeks”.

He added people had been “completelely understanding” and staff had reacted well to the problem.

In the statement released earlier, Mr Boden, said: “It is unfortunate that we are having to disrupt the public services which operate out of 8 North Ness, but it is essential that work goes ahead to remedy any faults within the property.

It is unfortunate that we are having to disrupt the public services which operate out of 8 North Ness – MARK BODEN

“This will be disruptive and inconvenient for customers and staff alike. I know that everyone will be patient as colleagues work quickly and efficiently to minimise the impact.”

The £7.3 million premises were opened in 2012 after being completed by construction firm Hunter and Morrison.

The then council chief, Alistair Buchan, said the building offered a “once in a generation” opportunity to centralise the SIC’s services and to create a more efficient and dynamic authority.

Two-hundred workers from eight SIC offices moved into the 3,000 square metre development.


Add Your Comment
  • alma isbister

    • September 20th, 2016 14:00

    Two hundred workers from eight SIC offices thats more worrying than the structure of the building,pretty sure that number could be reduced.

    • Christopher Johnston

      • September 20th, 2016 23:28

      Government is often the last chance for employment after all else has failed. Unfortunately, government sees its primary purpose to be a jobs program rather than a provider of efficient and economical services to the citizens.

    • Brian Smith

      • September 21st, 2016 15:56

      Amusing to see these comments by people who know zero about what they are speaking about. As I’ve said before, the Mail and the Express rot the brain.

      • Michael Garriock

        • September 22nd, 2016 21:44

        Would that be in the same way as the Morning Star implants in the brain an illusion that an impossible utopia of equality is achieveable, Brian?

        Face facts, whichever media source you choose, we are all equally lied to in equal measure, only the subject matter changes.

      • ian tinkler

        • September 23rd, 2016 8:34

        “As I’ve said before, the Mail and the Express rot the brain.” It takes a special type of arrogance to dismiss so many people with such rude ignorance. What a truly horrible opinion to express in public! Truly spoken like a Union man of the left. No wonder the Unions are a spent force in the UK.

  • Alan Skinner

    • September 20th, 2016 16:10

    Unfortunately, this episode will undoubtedly result in cost to Shetland Charitable Trust, the owner of SLAP, in both financial and reputational terms. I do wish they would sell all their private equity investments, including Viking Energy, although I doubt whether any buyer could be found for that particular stake.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • September 20th, 2016 20:22

    I just had to laugh at the post below which appeared on yes Shetland’s Facebook page today. They claim to represent all things Shetland but do not know what is owned or invested in by the SIC. Maybe if they concentrated on Shetland more and a little less on the new Forth crossing and the Borders Railway they would know about SLAP and the SCT and what they actually own or invest in.

    Yes Shetlands statement on, LOCAL GOVERNMENT
    ‘Whilst there are vocal critics of spending carried out by Holyrood, many local authorities are pouring money down drains as if there was no need to account for their actions
    Nowhere is this more apparent than in Shetland, the latest Shetland Islands Council white heffalump is not the worst
    At least this one got built, although at £7.3M for a cooncil HQ looking after 23,000 residents, some might say it’s way over the top
    Which it is and now it’s falling down
    The SIC has a very poor record on wasting our money, they threw £10M of our money into building a bridge from Lerwick to Bressay and then didn’t bother
    They poured money into a vast liner which was supposed to provide transport for freight and passengers to Faroe and north without getting any guarantee it would call into Shetland
    Soon it was found to be uneconomic for such a huge ship to call into Lerwick….guess what?
    Over £12M has been thrown at a huge land-based windfarm and not a turbine has been built
    It’s a long list of large, wasteful projects and one which does not show Scotland’s wealthiest authority in a good economic light
    Many other authorities are just as bad, but criticising the Scottish Government is a sport most of them indulge in
    To hide their own money-wasting, inflated-salaried empires probably’

  • Gordon Downing

    • September 20th, 2016 20:24

    They can always go to the new slap acquisition HNP

  • Ross Munro

    • September 20th, 2016 23:36

    Well. Good to see that it is the same for them as to us. My temporary house here in Hoofields has subsided by 3 degrees half way across the house. Nothing is being done. I guess us temporary people do not matter. My draining board has to have kitchen roll to the left of it; otherwise I end up with water all over the top and floor. I did an assessment myself with a standard bubble float and found a decline on the left side of my house. Used an inclnometer and found a 3 degree shift down in the end of my house. Maybe now the council will do something about it

  • David Spence

    • September 21st, 2016 0:24

    I wish the Council were as quick in re-housing tenants when it came to work being carried out on the house.

    Early this year my house was insulated by a local firm, to which they did a grant job. Now, I appreciate what the council are doing with their properties (housing) and making running costs for the house cheaper for the tenant. However, I had to remain living within the house whilst walls were stripped and torn down to the original stone wall, to which the house was made from (I believe my house was built around 1855?). New studs, insulation and plastboard were put up in place of what was before.

    As a consequence of such work being carried out, I developed serious breathing problems due to the amount of dust and debris which was in the air. This developed further into what is known as ‘ dust pnuemonia ‘ to which I had to spend a night in the hospital and put on a course of antibiotics.

    I just wished, in hindsight, the Council put the health of their tenants as much as a priority as they do their staff.

  • John Tulloch

    • September 22nd, 2016 10:13

    SIC chief executive Boden: ” “What I do know is it’s not an emergency, there’s not a safety issue, we just need to empty the building so they can come in and do some work.”

    Then why was it necessary to tell 200 staff on Tuesday morning that they would have to vacate the building by the end of the day? Granted, it’s not like the place was on fire but it’s hardly a non-urgent, orderly sequence of pre-planned events, is it?

  • John Tulloch

    • September 22nd, 2016 10:14

    If, as rumour has it, the White House has sunk “three or four inches”, there is, presumably, a problem with the specification, design or construction of the foundations? The building is owned by SLAP and rented by the SIC and we are told it was built by Hunter and Morrison.

    Who was responsible for the specification and design?

  • Robert Sandison

    • September 22nd, 2016 19:27

    Some of the land in that area was reclaimed from the sea . That could cause problems with subsidence as its all sitting over the sea bed . If you look at Mareel you can see signs of subsidence just look at the wall panels of the outside of the building nearest the museum the gaps between them are growing at that corner .

  • Michael Garriock

    • September 23rd, 2016 22:53

    Just read this article again and noticed this:

    “This will be disruptive and inconvenient for customers and staff alike.”

    So, we’re all only mere “customers” now are we, what is this SIC plc, purveyors of overpriced mediocre services to the public at large? Surely given the nature of the (alleged) relationship between the public and SIC, the public should be “client(s)” and SIC “contractor” or similar

    As the saying goes, ‘Every picture tells a story’, or in this case, one word tells a very revealing story.

    It may not entirely be an ill wind though. If we are now considered mere “customers”, it is reasonable to presume the provider of services would perceive themselves as “supplier”, and as such a business. Might being such in time cultivate a businesslike culture within said supplier? Perhaps, but I won’t be one of those holding my breath.


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