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Amenity trust ready to tackle large overdraft

Shetland Amenity Trust chief executive Mat Roberts: 'I would like to think that we could be free of our overdraft within the next five or so years.' Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Amenity Trust chief executive Mat Roberts says the organisation is now “living within its means” after its recent cost-cutting process – but it still has a £750,000 overdraft to tackle.

Roberts said he hopes the overdraft facility will be paid off in around five years or so.

Among other cost-cutting measures, the amenity trust has reduced its expenditure by around £200,000 after going through a redundancy process with staff.

Speaking after the trust’s board meeting, Roberts reiterated that he has “no plans” to make further job cuts to pay back the overdraft and in-stead the focus will be placed on getting more external funding or boosting income generation.

“I believe we’re in a much more stable position than we were a year ago,” he said.

“We understand our costs, we understand our incomes, and we are living in the resources we have available to us.

“We are now living within our means. We do need to pay back our overdraft, and that would have to be done through additional external funding or additional trading activity.

“I would like to think that we could be free of our overdraft within the next five or so years.”

The heritage organisation receives over £2 million a year from the Shetland Islands Council and Shetland Charitable Trust towards the services it provides.

The chief executive – who was appointed in March following the death of long-standing general manager Jimmy Moncrieff in 2017 – said discussions continue with the charitable trust, which is reining in its spending itself.

Roberts added that a restaurant manager has been appointed for its Hay’s Dock Cafe at the Shetland Museum – and for the moment the eatery won’t go out to a third party despite suggestions it could be of-fered as a franchise.

“We have a plan which was to bring in a restaurant manager and we need to give that team the opportunity to prove its worth, so we’ll stick with the in-house option at the moment,” he said.

Marooned in disrepair: the Nil Desperandum at Hay's Dock. Photo: Shetland News

Meanwhile, the trust is continuing to assess its options over the Nil Desperandum fishing vessel which is marooned in disrepair at Hay’s Dock in Lerwick.

The seine netter, which was built in 1947, was previously gifted to Shetland Amenity Trust by retired fisherman James Wiseman.

Roberts admitted that the amenity trust doesn’t have the money avail-able to renovate the boat, which is in “very, very poor condition”, and that external funding would need to be sought or it could be scrapped.

“We are coming towards the end of a process of looking at all our op-tions,” he said.

“There are many local people who have a personal interest in the ves-sel and before we take any additional action, we need to speak to them about the position the boat is in and any ambitions they may have.”