SEVERAL organisations in Shetland are reeling from the news that their funding is going to be slashed over the next four years as the local oil-funded charitable trust tightens its belt.
In a bid to cut spending by £1.5 million over four years the trust has set out new criteria, limiting its funding to organisations that help people “in need”.
As a result the world famous Shetland Folk Festival, the popular Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival, the Swan Trust that operates a historic, sail-powered fishing boat and the Shetland Churches Council Trust are to lose all their charitable trust funding completely.
While the two music festivals have pledged to find new sources of income to keep going, there is less certainty about the future of the Swan and the church trust.
Swan Trust treasurer George Anderson said the £71,000 annual grant they receive provided the bulk of their operating costs, including employing a skipper and bosun during the summer.
“I don’t think we could keep going unless we can find alternative funding,” he said.
The churches trust has received charitable trust funding since 1986 when it was granted a whopping £250,000, now reduced to £54,000 a year.
As with the other trusts, that figure will reduce by 25 per cent a year starting next year until it has vanished altogether by 2020.
Churches trust secretary Irene Charlton said the cash had been invaluable to help small congregations maintain their church buildings, some of which are now likely to close.
“This means we won’t have any money to distribute for church buildings and in the long run that means there are buildings that will have to close,” she said. “That amount of money would happily keep the charitable trust in paperclips. Saving it is not going to make a big difference in the overall scheme of things for them, but it will make a huge difference to small organisations like us,” she said.
Folk festival committee member Mhari Pottinger said losing their £18,000 a year grant would make it harder to lever in money from outside the islands.
She also pointed out a socio-economic study showed that five years ago the festival brought in £250,000 directly to the local economy. “That sounds like good value for money,” she said.
Peter Leask, of the accordion and fiddle festival, said the £12,000 they received each year was their only grant funding and they would have to find other sources of income to boost what they already generate through fund raising and ticket sales.
“It will be challenging to overcome it, but at least we have been given a few years and the festival will definitely continue if I have anything to do with it,” he said.
Other charitable trust-funded organisations are facing cutbacks, including the mental health charity Shetland Link Up and the employment service Moving On, but the scale of the impact has not been made public.
Meanwhile the social enterprise COPE that supports people with disabilities with its various programmes is one of the organisations deemed important enouigh to continue receiving (in principle) £154,000 core funding, which covers around 10 per cent of their costs.
It remains unclear how much the three major recipients of charitable trust largesse – Shetland Recreational Trust (£2.5 million), Shetland Amenity Trust (£1 million) and Shetland Arts Development Agency (£700,000)– are likely to be affected.
There are also projects, including support for rural care homes, that face some kind of impact, but again this remains unclear.
Charitable trust chairman Bobby Hunter said he could not provide any more detail as some of the grant-aided organisations had yet to be informed of the impact on their budgets.
He explained: “We are having to make these changes to make the charitable trust sustainable in the long term.
“It’s not an easy job and no one is going to be happy with the cuts, but if we don’t cut the people who are being cut then we are going to have to cut somewhere else.
“We are trying to do our best for people in need and that is our main priority – to help people in need.
“Also the three big trusts provide services throughout Shetland and I think it’s incumbent upon us to maintain that as best we can.”
The changes were agreed during a private session of the trust last week.
One trustee said: “There was general accord to go ahead with this, but also a genuine reluctance across all the officials and the trustees.”
The trust’s income from its investments this year has been £8.5 million, while its expenditure is £10- million.
However the trust has also managed to increase the value of its investment portfolio from £220 to £240 million and confirmed that any further growth will be reinvested into the general fund.
Ten years ago the trust reduced its spending from £15 million to the current £11 million. Now the target is to increase spending by the rate of inflation after 2020 once it has been reduced to £8.5 million a year.
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