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Community / Charitable trust ‘enters new era’ after approving financial strategy

Shetland Charitable Trust headquarters at North Road. Photo: Shetland NewsSCT headquarters on North Road, Lerwick. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Charitable Trust is “entering a new era” after trustees signed off a new financial plan which should see grants to community groups increase over the coming years.

The was message the trustee Ian Napier at a meeting of the trust on Thursday.

At the moment there is a cap on Shetland Charitable Trust expenditure – grants to the community as well as management costs – of £9 million.

But this will rise to £10 million for 2020/21 and £11.11 million by 2024/25.

This should mean that the charities and community groups which receive funding from the trust should see more money come their way.

The move comes off the back of the trust’s investments performing well in the market over the last few years, combined with a tightening of the purse strings when it came to spending.

Some groups, like the Swan Trust and Shetland Folk Festival, had seen their grant drop to zero by 2019/20.

A central theme across the trust’s funding commitments over 2020 to 2025 will be to “promote inclusion and reduce inequalities” in Shetland.

All organisations which benefit from trust funding will be asked to demonstrate how they are addressing these aims.

Napier said at Thursday’s meeting that the new financial plan “represents a real turnaround in the trust’s position”.

“We had to take some tough decisions to try to bring expenditure back into line with the trust’s income,” he explained.

“We are now entering a new era. Hopefully the long term benefits will prevail.”

Napier added that the only income the charitable trust receives now is returns on investments, instead of the funds from the oil industry which originally were passed to the organisation in its early days after the opening of Sullom Voe Terminal.

“It’s not just cash we can spend willy nilly,” he warned.

Trustees also heard on Thursday that the trust’s net value at the end of the 2018/19 financial year was £309.3 million.

This represented an increase of £24.9 million on the previous year, mainly due to gains on investments of nearly £27 million.

The charitable expenditure during the year was £8.4 million.

The largest grants delivered by the trust are to groups like Shetland Recreational Trust and Shetland Amenity Trust, as well as the rural care model and Shetland Arts.

Writing in a report to trustees on the last financial year, chairman Andrew Cooper said:

“The trust is in a strong financial position despite the troubles of the world, and this reflects the excellent investment decisions made in the sure hands of the investment advisory committee chair and members.

“We are now in a position to review our strategic plans, with a focus on a new disbursement plan, which we hope to start implementing in the coming year.”

Since the trust began in 1976, it has paid out over £320 million to organisations in Shetland with the aim of improving the quality of life for all people in Shetland.