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Community / Amenity trust debt ‘won’t go away for a decade’

Shetland Amenity Trust chief executive Mat Roberts. Photo: Shetland NewsShetland Amenity Trust chief executive Mat Roberts. Photo: Shetland News

IT COULD take a decade for Shetland Amenity Trust to pay off its historical debt, according to the organisation’s chief executive.

A main feature of this is the trust’s overdraft balance, which at one point in 2018 stood at around £750,000.

At the end of the 2018/19 financial year the overdraft sat at £630,000, with overall debt down by 12 per cent despite cuts of over £75,000 from key funding partners in a single year.

But chief executive Mat Roberts said the eliminating the debt is a “long haul – a very long haul” project.

Roberts took on his role in March 2018 following the death of long-standing chief Jimmy Moncrieff the year prior.

In late 2017 the trust announced plans to cut jobs and restructure its management in a bid to cut its crippling costs.

The amenity trust – a registered charity – draws its funding from a variety of public sources as well as a substantial grant from Shetland Charitable Trust.

Formed in 1983, the trust aims to protect and enhance Shetland’s cultural heritage and develop the isles’ natural heritage.

Speaking earlier this week as he reflected on how 2019 went for the amenity trust, Roberts said the organisation was faced with a “substantial level of debt” when he took on his role.

He conceded that the debt would not go away anytime soon.

“Finances are under a lot of pressure,” Roberts said.

“They always have been under a lot of pressure. We need events like Shetland Wool Week to tackle those challenges.

“I inherited a substantial level of debt, and we need to pay that off. We have to make continuous progress on that because it won’t go away for a decade. It’s a long haul – a very long haul. It was a big pile of debt.”

More generally, Roberts described 2019 as a “year of slow, steady progress” for the trust.

“I think I’ve repeatedly said that we have a better visibility for the challenges that we face, and that has taken us longer than expected to get that visibility. But I think now we’re in a position to be able to look forward quite positively.

“There are some great opportunities out there, and I think we are reasonably well placed to maximise those opportunities.”

The chief executive added that there is still a “lot of work to do around our organisation and how it fits into the general Shetland picture”, including in the visitor economy.