22nd May 2018
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Two councillors resign from trust in protest at SYIS decision

By MALACHY TALLACK & NEIL RIDDELL

Two councillors have resigned from Shetland Charitable Trust following its controversial decision to withdraw all funding to the Shetland Youth Information Service (SYIS).

Peter Campbell and George Smith announced their resignations on Tuesday morning. Both are SYIS directors – meaning they were unable to take part in the debate and subsequent 6-4 vote to immediately cease funding.

In a statement, Mr Campbell said he was stepping down from the trust because it had halted the £188,000 annual grant to SYIS before a new youth strategy for Shetland had been completed and a “clearly defined role for SYIS within the strategy had been determined”.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Last week drop-in centre staff told this newspaper they faced “total uncertainty” and felt “let down” by the charitable trust.

Mr Smith said he was resigning with immediate effect “as a direct result of the handling and presentation of the report on SYIS”. 

“I believe that the report did not present an accurate picture of the current situation pertaining to SYIS and, as a result, trustees made a decision which has significant implications for the services users of SYIS and staff.”

In a bullish response, trust chairman Bobby Hunter said he was sorry to learn of the resignations but emphasised that “under my chairmanship the trust will not be influenced in its decisions, or in how it takes those decisions, by resignations or threats of resignations”.

“I have the best legal advice that the trust acted properly in the way it conducted the meeting about SYIS. I’m also quite certain that the decision to end funding was taken on the basis of sound evidence.”

“The public expects us to safeguard trust funds and that is what we did,” Mr Hunter  continued.

“If we find that an organisation funded by the trust has not met the conditions of its grant, then that grant is very likely to be removed. Likewise, any trustee seeking to lobby the trust on behalf of another organisation that he or she represents is likely to run into trouble.”

SYIS’s 14 members of staff have been in limbo since the shock decision on 28th March to cut all funding just three days before the start of the new financial year.

Mr Smith said SYIS directors were due to meet on Wednesday to “deal urgently” with employees’ position.

“That’s one of the things we’ll want to explore,” he said, “what obligation the trust has to staff, it being the major funder. We’ll need to get advice on that.”

The vote by the charitable trust to cut funding to SYIS was held in private. However, The Shetland Times understands it was won by only a small majority, with more than half of councillor-trustees either absent from the meeting or declaring an interest.

Those who voted to cut the funding immediately were COPE chairman Jimmy Smith, Betty Fullerton (ex-councillor and one-time NHS Shetland chief), Ian Kinniburgh (NHS Shetland chairman), Stephen Morgan (children’s reporter), Ian Napier (NAFC fisheries development manager) and councillor-trustee Drew Ratter.

Those who voted to give SYIS an interim grant were Catherine Hughson (executive officer Voluntary Action Shetland), Keith Massey (NHS Shetland board member) and councillor-trustees Malcolm Bell and Jonathan Wills.

Chairman Bobby Hunter abstained from the vote, while Mr Smith declared an interest. Councillors Robert Henderson, Andrea Manson and Mr Campbell were absent from the meeting.

Mr Campbell said his resignation was linked to legal advice stating that a trustee “who has an interest in an organisation which may receive financial support from the trust and who has access to information which could help inform the trust’s decision making process, should not make that information available to fellow trustees”.

“While I accept that it is inappropriate to participate in the discussion of the subject within a trust meeting, I believe that such a restriction prevents trustees from having access to all relevant information before decisions are taken.”

Under the trust’s new constitution, SIC councillors make up seven of the 15 trustees, alongside eight appointees. The council will now have to appoint another two elected members to serve on the trust.

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8 comments

  1. Sandy McMillan

    For goodness sake its only a few days ago the Convenor Malcolm Bell was urging shoppers to use Cope, now the rest of this selfish group have voted to take away the funding, The Cope in all its enternity is a life line for the disabled of Shetland,
    But what do expect from these Councillors and official, once more it is the vulnerable that get smacked between the eyes, Pensioners Disabled and the Infirm, and in the case of the Cope also the youngsters, all these mentioned. Will now have to sit around at home or in a care home with nothing to do, and slowly become vegetables, having to get care from another establishment which at the end of the day will probably cost more outlay to this establishment of penny pinching outfit of officials, When and where is this all going to stop, The Westminster millionaires are doing enough to cause poverty, without our ayne folk helping them, I think the world of the two who resigned these are the guys with a bit of gut, The rest of the Trust well what can you say,( I THINK IN THIS CASE I WIIL KEEP IT TO MY SELF?)

    Reply
  2. Allen Fraser

    Whatever the rights or wrongs of SYIS, I would certainly have no confidence in the way the new SCT is now being run when the Chair of the SCT uses lawyers to gag any Trustee who try to speak up and point out where inaccurate information is being presented as the truth by SCT officers.

    Reply
  3. Tom Macintyre

    I am totally shocked by the inexcusable decision by the SCT to axe funding to SYIS. In light of the fact that the report laid before the Trustees was outdated and had not taken into account more recent developments i.e. possibility of restructuring and waiting for the Council’s Strategy for Youth Services to be completed.

    To say that the public are expecting the SCT to safeguard the trust funds is not the only function of public decision makers. Surely it is to safeguard and protect the most needy and vulnerable, or have all decision-makers in Shetland lost their ‘moral compass’?

    I am not unaware of problems relating to SYIS, but would it not have been just and sensible to allow a short period for things to be rectified? This is too sudden.

    I admire the attempts of some of the trustees to hold off the decision but I am appalled that such a decision was taken without all the members being present. This decision, as with a number of decisions recently, again disadvantages those who struggle with life-issues…… to say nothing of the jobs lost and the goodwill of volunteers rubbished. One of the projects associated with SYIS has just won three different awards for its valuable work. With decisions like this, external funders will think twice about supporting projects in Shetland and people drawn to such innovative work as this will be discouraged from coming or staying in Shetland.

    I hope that the SCT trustees will have the moral courage to suspend standing orders and revisit their decision as soon as possible.

    Yours, incandescent with rage,
    Tom Macintyre

    Reply
  4. JohnTulloch

    As I understand it then, there were allegations, a prosecution, a judge and a jury who tried, convicted and sentenced to death a defenceless defendant, SYIS, “in absentia”?

    The Shetland CHARITABLE Trust???

    Reply
  5. JohnTulloch

    Sorry, of course, they also carried out the summary execution.

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  6. ian tinkler

    Tom Macintyre, The trust has committed its funds to Viking Energy. Is that not something you supported. They have to reserve their funds for that. Be incandescent with rage, but with yourself.

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  7. Peg Young

    Shame! Shame! Shame! Good on the brave two who stood up for what is right. “The best legal advice” cannot compensate for mean-spiritedness. It’s happening everywhere, unfortunately, as the power of the gelt outweighs that of common sense and CHARITY.

    Reply
  8. tina chalmers

    As an employee of syis i was shocked and till this day, i still dont understand how a decision as drastic as this can be made to close down a service without all of the relevant information as stated by the 2 councilors who have resigned. where is the logic? surely you would want all of the information possible to make an informed decision?! It is good to see that others feel as strongly about this as the staff and young people do. and if two of their own making a stand doesn’t show SCT they have made a mistake i dont know what will. i feel it has been a huge mistake. I agree there were problems but they had nothing to do with the service we were providing for the young people of Shetland. we saw upwards of 300 separate people last month, on several occasions and some who came in every single day. we were their constant and now they have had that taken away. syis was a unique service and it is a huge loss for shetland.

    Reply

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