Scilly’s Interim Chief Exec Talks About The Challenges Ahead

New interim chief executive, Barry Keel

New interim chief executive, Barry Keel

The interim Chief Executive of the Council of the Isles of Scilly says the authority needs to make cuts swiftly so they won’t run out of cash for services.

Barry Keel has started a thorough review of services to see how money could be saved and how delivery could be improved.

By next April, the Council is expected to be £1.4m over budget and the reserves are now being used up. That money runs out in March 2016.

Mr Keel says that balancing the Council’s books is ‘do-able’ but savings will need to come by smarter working, as the authority can’t expect government grants or handouts in the future.

From Radio Scilly

Hear the full interview with Barry Keel from Radio Scilly

But he says the longer the authority delays it, the worse it will get. He wants to talk to staff, councillors and council partners and work with them to identify what needs doing within a short space of time.

Staffing accounts for 70% to 80% of costs and there will need to be changes in working. Barry says it’s too early to say whether restructuring would mean job losses and he’s aware of how that would impact on the wider community.

But he says councils across the country are having to make hard decisions about what they do, and more importantly, what they don’t do. We can’t necessarily carry on doing everything we’ve done in the past, he says.

Barry feels that if staff are involved in the process, they’ll back it and everyone will be able to work towards the same goal – improving services while reducing costs.

Mr Keel says he’s also looking at whether Scilly needs six Director-level officers. Plymouth operates with three and Devon has just two, but he says geography and circumstances differ in each area. There’s no set formula and further work needs to be done.

Barry has taken the position for around six months and while the work may take a little longer, he says he doesn’t want a full-time role here.

Some councillors have questioned whether there’s any need to hire a new Chief Executive in the future as many councils now share theirs with other authorities. This isn’t Mr Keel’s favoured option and he says the trick is to pick a new Chief Executive who’s right for the authority and can deliver on the agenda now being set.

Barry says you have to be clear to employees about where you’re heading and says most people in any organisation just want to do a good days work and get credit for what they do.

And he says everyone needs to be involved in the change – the members, the staff and the community. If it’s just him on his own trying to change, he says, it’s doomed to failure.

The key in the next few weeks is to agree the issues facing the authority, identify the priorities and get action plans put in place so staff can deliver.

“It’s about putting the organisation back on the rails,” he says. “Once there’s some momentum, it’s difficult to stop.”

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