Robinson slates ‘unhelpful’ attitude of charitable trust over voluntary project

Shetland Islands Council should not be expected to support services dropped by the charitable trust, according to the SIC’s political leader.

Gary Robinson’s warning came after councillors decided to continue funding Voluntary Action Shetland’s Peer Education Project.

The education and families committee on Tuesday agreed to put forward £12,000 to help cover this year’s costs of the service.

Members put off making a decision in April to see if the trust and NHS Shetland might also be able to assist.

But head of service Helen Budge said the trust had said it could offer no assistance. NHS Shetland said it supported the cause “in principle”, but was unable to commit in the timeframe given. It hopes to carry out work on its savings plans to see if it has any “uncommitted funding” which it might be able to offer.

Last week the charitable trust announced it planned to cut £1.5 million over the next five years as part of a struggle to curb outgoings and bring spending more in line with what it takes in.

The Peer Education Project works with the council’s schools and youth services to keep young folk informed about issues such as sexual health and drugs awareness. The project was once part of the Shetland Youth Information Service, which closed its doors after the trust withdrew its support.

Mr Robinson, who two months ago proposed knocking on the trust’s and health board’s doors, said he was encouraged that it “did not appear to be a definite ‘no’ from the NHS”.

But he added that while the exercise had shown “willingness” from the health service, it had also demonstrated a “thoroughly unhelpful” attitude of the charitable trust.

He said there was a need to ensure the trust was playing its “full part” in the isles.

“It’s too big and too important to stand at the side and take decisions without consulting with its partners. The council is not in a position to pick up everything the charitable trust wants to drop.”

The meeting heard the trust had responded to an appeal for help, stating it was “currently closed to new funding bids” while it undertook a review of its disbursements.

A trust statement sent on behalf of chairman Bobby Hunter said VAS had been sent one year’s worth of funding in March last year. It had been made clear at the time no more funding would be made available.

“When they took over this service, Voluntary Action Shetland received one year funding to 31st March 2014 in respect of Peer Education. They were advised that Shetland Charitable Trust could only commit to one year funding.

“Given the Shetland Charitable Trust’s current financial position, they are unable to commit to any further expenditure beyond that approved by trustees at their meeting on 19th February 2015 for the year to 31st March 2016.”


Add Your Comment
  • Kathy Greaves

    • June 17th, 2015 12:41

    “Shetland Islands Council should not be expected to support services dropped by the charitable trust, according to the SIC’s political leader.”

    I may be wrong, but I understood that purpose of the Charitable Trust was to top up the monies for services which are the SIC’s responsibility; perhaps someone could provide such a list and name the other projects which are solely SCT funded. Including VE.

    • Gary Robinson

      • June 17th, 2015 21:23

      Kathy, you quote the Shetland Times article but my actual statement is quoted later in the report; “The council is not in a position to pick up everything the charitable trust wants to drop.” This has a different emphasis and it is a statement of fact.

      The purpose of the Shetland Charitable Trust isn’t to “top up monies for services which are the SIC’s responsibility;” The council must fund its own statutory responsibilities since the SCT could breach its charitable status if it funded such activities.

      That said, the SCT can fund services that are additional to or go beyond the statutory responsibility of the council. The Peer Education Project falls into this category and I believe it’s a worthwhile additional service that was funded by the SCT and could be in the future.

  • Ali Inkster

    • June 17th, 2015 15:11

    Face facts as long as the trust is committed to VE spending will have to be curbed. Even the most optimistic profit projections mean that even when/IF it ever does start producing the returns will be muchless than is currently gained from the stock markets.

    • David Spence

      • June 18th, 2015 1:10

      Ali, I believe the figure which has been going around in regards to the return for the SCT is around £20 – £23 million a year……………or this is what I have been told.

      However, given the uncertainty of the wind power industry, and the vile Tory Governments cutting down of subsidies to wind farm projects, the whole future of VEP is very much on the balance, and I very much doubt, if it ever got off the ground, the SCT would get its money back within the life time of the VEP.

      I think the impression many people are getting of the SCT, is these cuts and proposed cuts to other, more vital than the VEP, services are being done for the SCT wishing to keep their share of the VEP, then they truly should be ashamed, and tell the people of Shetland the ‘ real reason why these cuts are taking place ‘ instead of using other excuses to justify such cuts.

      • John Tulloch

        • June 18th, 2015 9:09

        Isn’t it the case that these cuts are actually necessary to keep the Trust’s capital intact, now, and that if they plough capital into VE with no return, at all, for several years, further heavy cuts to beneficiary services will be needed?

        I don’t know the answer, I’m just asking the question.

      • Johan Adamson

        • June 18th, 2015 9:14

        We dont seem to be allowed to know or comment on their investment policy but it is obviously directly linked to their ability to fund things. Maybe the Trustees will be let in on it in due course. If the objective is short term low risk income generation then VE certainly does not fit the bill.

  • David Gardner

    • June 21st, 2015 10:16

    I guess we need to be wary of conspiracy theories here – but nevertheless two potentially come to mind. 1 – No doubt by hitting popular and very much desirable services and events etc with cuts of this nature the SCT are perhaps hoping that, possibly under public pressure to do so, the SIC will indeed financially come to at least some of their rescues, thereby absolving the SCT of the need to continue funding them themselves. And 2 – I’m now simply waiting for the moment when the SCT members once again highlight the potential solution to all this. That is the envisaged returns they continue to believe will be forthcoming to them from the VE project. What better way to perhaps get a sceptical Shetland public further onside than to start removing much of what we as a social and cultural community value most. And then, by way of placatory return, once again offer up to the Shetland public the holy grail of solutions to their (the SCT’s) current funding problems. Just thinking aloud here of course.


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