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Community / Charitable trust to increase spending as investments swell to nearly £500m

SHETLAND Charitable Trust is set to increase its expenditure as a result of its healthy bank balance.

Trustees agreed at a meeting on Thursday to increase its maximum spending in 2022/23 by around £4 million to £15 million.

It comes after the value of its investments rose to nearly £500 million by the end of June.

The surge in value of external investments is said to be largely driven by changes in consumer buying habits during the Covid-19 crisis, including increased reliance on digital technology and online shopping.

The trust’s maximum budget will rise steadily over the coming years to £15.7 million in the 2024/25.

At the moment the maximum budget for spending in the community is £12 million.

Most of the extra funding for the next three years is expected to go on requested repairs and refurbishment for the network of large community buildings run by Shetland Recreational Trust, Shetland Amenity Trust, Shetland Arts Development Agency and Voluntary Action Shetland.

The trust’s previous financial plan was put in place in 2019, but the value of investments has risen sharply since then.

The plan originally envisaged the value of the trust’s investments to be sitting at around £321 million in March this year.

Instead, due to a strong market the actual value was £442 million.

This has resulted in the trust being able to loosen the purse strings a little more.

However, the trust’s aim of self-sustainability means that spending is still limited to some degree.

Shetland Charitable Trust chairman Andrew Cooper. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

The basis of this is spending only what its investments produce in average growth above inflation.

Trust chairman Dr Andrew Cooper said: “The remarkable success of our invested funds gives us an opportunity to tackle a long-held concern about meeting the cost of keeping many of our most prestigious community buildings up to standard.

“SCT is now able to step in and help get the backlog of work done so that these centres and venues can continue to serve us in the ways we’ve come to enjoy and expect.

“As we always say, we do have to be wary of a crash in the markets which can quickly reverse our fortunes and damage our spending ability. The trust gauges the success of its investments over the course of years rather than after a few very successful months.”

Shetland Charitable Trust effectively began life in 1976 when Sullom Voe Terminal began operating.

It received and disbursed money paid by the oil industry to the local community as compensation for the new terminal operating in Shetland, starting with a funding pot of £81 million.

The charity provides yearly funding for Shetland’s main trusts covering arts, amenity and recreation – as well as the rural care model and host of other local groups and organisations.

Around £340 million has been spent on community services.