Uncharitable to trustees (Jonathan Wills)
Ian Tinkler (Readers’ Views, The Shetland Times, 18th September) wonders why the Shetland Charitable Trust is so concerned about being short of funds that it’s making “a raft of cuts” and savaging “the heritage and culture of Shetland”.
Mr Tinkler says trustees should have “the common decency” to answer the questions he raises about the trust’s financial policies. In fact, we’ve already done so but as he seems to have missed it I’ll try again.
The reason for the trust’s reduced spending, as we’ve repeatedly explained in public, is that for years the former trustees (with the best will in the world and wishing to be kind to all) spent more than the trust was earning, sometimes considerably more.
What the present trustees, whom Mr Tinkler so reviles, are trying to do is bring spending back in line with income and stop using capital as if it were earnings. That’s the only way to ensure the trust maintains its value for the benefit of future generations.
I assume Mr Tinkler agrees with that aim. His problem seems to be that he doesn’t like the immediate consequences of the new, more prudent, financial policy. Nor do I, but only the government can print money. The charitable trust can’t. That’s why we’re having to reduce grants to all sorts of things that we’d much rather support at the former level.
If he read what’s been reported in the media about this, or if he read the publicly available minutes of trust meetings, Mr Tinkler would know that if the charitable trust were to reduce its spending tomorrow to what it can actually afford, the cuts to the various organisations we support would be much more severe.
Instead, the trust is phasing in the cuts over several years, to give the beneficiaries time to adjust. This decision means the trust will actually spend well over a million pounds of its capital to “soften the blow”.
The irony is that the trust’s financial prospects would be considerably better if Mr Tinkler and his associates had not supported a lengthy campaign attempting to sabotage the Viking Energy windfarm project, which is the only prospect of “millions and millions” of new funds coming into the trust’s coffers.
The campaign failed but as a direct result of it there has been a lengthy delay and it’s unlikely that Viking will now produce significant income for the trust until after 2020. Whose fault is that?
The £10 million the trust has invested in Viking so far is not some idle, reckless speculation, as Mr Tinkler suggests, yet again, but was agreed after taking the best available technical and financial advice (from people whom he also despises).
When Viking starts producing returns, they will support the many good causes he accuses us of savaging – in his imagination because we have an irrational, sadistic desire to “mimic” Messrs Cameron and Osborne and inflict austerity on trust beneficiaries, just for the hell of it.
None of the above will alter Mr Tinkler’s uncharitable view of the trustees’ character and motives, but I think it’s always a good idea to respond to his invective, just in case people who don’t know him should get the wrong end of the stick, as he has done so often.