By NEIL RIDDELL
An appeal from Shetland Amenity Trust for an extra £68,000 in public cash just two months into the new financial year was rejected by its principal funder last week.
Trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust, which hands out just over £1m a year to the amenity trust to help fund its various activities, gave the heritage organisation a £500,000 repayable float back in July 2005 as a bridging loan to help pay for work on the £12 million museum and archives project (the charitable trust contributed just over £6 million of that sum).
After repaying most of the £500,000 sum financial controller Jeff Goddard calculated that the amenity trust still owed £68,385, which he said it was asking to keep to cover final payments to contractors related to the building of the museum.
But at last week’s trust meeting, councillor-trustee Gary Robinson took umbrage at that request, asking why trustees were even contemplating allowing the amenity trust to keep the budget when “we have a policy of asking for savings from these organisations”, particularly only two months after the new financial year began.
Councillor-trustee Allison Duncan enquired as to why there had been an overspend and was told there had been additional cost issues related to problems with air conditioning units in the building. But Mr Duncan said he was furious that trustees had not been kept up to date and described it as “typical” of the council and trust’s shared habit of “overspend, overspend, overspend”.
He said: “It’s disgraceful that we shouldn’t be told in advance about this.” Mr Robinson’s motion that the amenity trust should pay back the remaining £68,385 it owed was agreed without opposition, and it is now anticipated that the amenity trust may return to the charitable trust with another request for the money later in the year.
The amenity trust has previously come under criticism for what Mr Duncan, and at times others, perceive to be “crisis management” over its occasional habit of coming to the charitable trust at various points throughout the financial year asking for money over and above its annual block grant.
At present it gets roughly 40 per cent of its funding from the charitable trust but is run in a vastly different way from Shetland Recreational Trust, which relies on its charitable trust income and cash from punters to fund its activities.
Because a lot of what the amenity trust does is transient in nature, it means the overall level of expenditure fluctuates a lot from one year to the next, which in turn makes its budget more difficult to manage and means it is constantly involved in submitting applications to a host of different bodies to fund various activities.
Although he had not responded to an inquiry from The Shetland Times when we went to press, amenity trust general manager Jimmy Moncrieff is understood to be of the opinion that the charitable trust should not seek to micromanage the organisations to which it disperses funds and that when the overall cake is divvied up, experts in each individual field should then be responsible for allocating the money to different areas.