Call for end to special islands allowance paid to staff in Shetland’s trusts

A call has been made for Shetland Charitable Trust to stop paying a special islands allowance to its staff and those of bodies it funds, including the amenity, arts and recreational trusts.

Independent trustee Sir John Scott told a trust meeting today the bonus was “archaic” and a leftover from the 1970s oil boom days when extra payments were given to public sector workers to try to stop them being lured to big money jobs at Sullom Voe.

But while Shetland Islands Council employees get an island allowance paid for by the government the allowance paid for by the trust has to come from its own funds, generated by its investments in property and the financial markets.

Sir John said phasing it out could save around £1 million a year for the trust to spend on new charitable activities in addition to the £11 million it currently pays out. In the past it has spent as much as £18 million in a year.

The idea was contested by councillor-trustee Rick Nickerson who said the trusts needed to have salaries that attracted the best people. He warned that Shetland was possibly entering a boom time again with the danger that staff in the trusts might be lured away.

The trust agreed to impose a three-year budget freeze on the organisations it funds, forcing them to trim their spending and run their affairs without any extra money to cope with rises in inflation.

The big trusts will have to present their proposed budgets to their paymaster to show they are planning for a cash standstill or that they have found extra funding from elsewhere to pay for wage rises or growth in their activities.

Councillor-trustee Sandy Cluness welcomed the move to three-year budgeting which he said would help funded organisations which had found it difficult to operate on year-to-year funding. Given the climate of spending cuts he felt the funding freeze was “perfectly reasonable”.

Three-year funding allows organisations to plan ahead with more certainty and opens up more possibility of attracting matched funding for projects from organisations outwith Shetland.

Despite recent losses on the financial markets the trust is confident it will still be able to afford to spend £11 million a year until at least March 2015. Financial controller Jeff Goddard said things would have to be a lot worse on the stock market before he would have to come to trustees asking for spending plans to be reviewed.

Councillor-trustee Alistair Cooper was less confident. He said the trust would need to be absolutely sure nothing would come along and “bite us on the bum” which it could not afford to pay for, such as unforeseen expensive repairs to leisure centres and swimming pools.

Trust chairman Bill Manson could only give limited re-assurance. He said: “It’s the nature of the beast that you dunna ken what’s going to bite you on the bum … otherwise you’d try to skirt around it.”


Add Your Comment
  • Brian Smith

    • September 8th, 2011 21:41

    First a Flea, dan a laird. It always puzzles me when folk propose to cut other folk’s wages. I never feel I want to do it.

  • Colin Hunter

    • September 10th, 2011 13:48

    Certainly in the financial climate we find ourselves in, with the weekly shopping bill seemingly increasing exponentially. and the fuel barons ripping us off royally at the same time, I would think that the very last thing anyone would contemplate happily would be a cut in wages. The idea of the Islands allowance may well be archaic, but does that also mean that London Weighting is archaic. See for history and current values. It can be seen that it is worth quite a lot more than the islands allowance. I lived in London for 3 or 4 months in the early eighties, and thought that the cost of living was not all that high, in comparison to the isles. In fact, cheaper in certain aspects, which I’m sure it still is, Fuel in particular! If the “Allowance” is discontinued for Trust employees, the amount should be consolidated into their wages so that they don’t suffer deprivation. If Sir John wants to start cutting peoples pay, he should think long and hard about his own future on the “Charitable” Trust board. In itself, such an act is hardly charitable!


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