Jobs at Shetland Amenity Trust are hanging in the balance as the trust attempts to bounce back from a “critical” financial position – needing to cut its deficit by at least £200,000.
Staff were this week informed by letter that trustees would be forced to make “immediate economies”, including potential job losses, if it is to curtail worsening financial worries.
The letter, addressed to all trust staff and signed by vice-chairman Captain George Sutherland, speaks of “serious financial problems” which “have been creeping up on us for several years”.
In what may be perceived as a criticism of the way the trust has been run previously the letter continues: “They [financial problems] stem from the way the trust was run in the past, with new commitments and exciting projects being added whenever opportunities presented themselves, sometimes without enough foresight and planning for the running costs.”
Staff are warned that the trust’s financial position is now “critical… unless we take immediate action to reduce our deficit by at least £200,000 in the current financial year.”
The cuts come as accounts for the year ended 31st March show that the trust’s total funds plummeted by nearly £3million from around £14.2 million to £11.5 million.
The annual accounts also reveal that the body had £247,134 in the bank and at hand, while a note in the document states that sum includes £244,959 held on behalf of the Follow the Vikings project which “is unavailable for use to further the Trust’s charitable activities”. With this figure removed the trust had a cash in hand balance of £2,175.
The majority of the trust’s money was, instead, tied up in fixed assets – its buildings. The amount due to the trust from debtors fell by roughly 19 per cent, to just over £250,000, while the amount owed to creditors rose by two per cent when the money due to the Follow the Vikings project is subtracted.
Included among the debtors is money due to the trust by Hay’s Dock Cafe and Restaurant, a business which is run by the trust and operated at a loss of roughly £25,000 last year.
Meanwhile, the trust was shown to be over £750,000 into an overdraft as of the end of March, with mortgages and loans to pay off as well.
In previous years both the council and Shetland Charitable Trust have slashed funding to the Amenity Trust, exacerbating the financial situation. And earlier this year the trust was dealt a further blow when it lost its £400,000 a year Promote Shetland contract.
Staff are told in the letter that a “longer-term reorganisation” is planned in order to put the trust on “sounder footing”. But while trustees are said to be working to “minimise redundancies” questions will remain over the future direction of the trust and which departments will be identified for cuts.
Capt Sutherland said: “Staff are aware of the problems and have already contributed many constructive ideas for making savings but there is currently no alternative to considering reducing the number of staff.
“This is a difficult time for all staff as well as trustees, but we remain optimistic that after reorganisation the trust will continue to make a positive contribution to the preservation, protection and improvement of Shetland’s heritage.”
• For more see tomorrow’s Shetland Times