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Community / Charitable trust to spend more as repairs funding brought forward

Shetland Charitable Trust headquarters at Lerwick's North Road. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Charitable Trust (SCT) is to increase its grant funding to £16.4 million next year as it speeds up a major building repair scheme. 

The trust will increase spending by almost £6.7 million across three funding schemes, with the overwhelming majority of the increase accounted for by a new capital grant scheme to repair venues and sport buildings around the islands.

Its main grant scheme, which funds over 30 projects and organisations including the big three trusts and community care, will spend £8.6 million in 2022/23, a rise of £280,000 on this year’s budget.

SCT trustees approved the spending increases at a trust meeting conducted remotely over Zoom on Thursday morning.

The spending hike is largely to meet “strong demand” from four major charitable organisations – Shetland Recreational Trust, Shetland Amenity Trust, Shetland Arts and Voluntary Action Shetland – for repairs.

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

As a result the trust is seeking to “front-load” its three-year, £12 million capital grant scheme by spending up to £7.7 million in the first year instead of the previously proposed £4 million. The trust received bids totalling £9.8 million in the first round of applications, most of which related to spending for 2022/23.

Funding is available to renovate or renew fittings and equipment in buildings including leisure centres, swimming pools, museums, heritage centres and the Market House voluntary centre.

Allocations under the main grant scheme will be released next week once applicants have been informed.

SCT’s invested funds were valued at £485.2 million at the end of September, up £46.5 million in six months and representing a return of 10.6 per cent. This time last year the funds stood at £411.8 million.

Equity markets performed strongly in the three months to June as economies reopened with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, but the following three months to September saw the recovery slowing and inflation starting to take effect.

Trust chairman Dr Andrew Cooper said the “continuing success” of its investment policies “put us in the fortunate position where we can afford to keep revising our budgets upwards”.

He added: “It’s important that we seek to optimise our help to the local voluntary sector and other key charitable organisations.”

Meanwhile, the trust’s capital works bridging loan scheme is to be enhanced with a pot of up to £1.5 million to call upon.

The scheme has dished out nearly 50 interest-free short-term loans over the past 12 years.

They help groups to avoid cashflow problems when completing projects while awaiting the release of grant funding from external bodies such as governments, the National Lottery and the EU. It is estimated around £16 million in grants has been levered into the islands as a result of the loans’ provision, the trust said.

Recent recipients include Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, which was loaned £366,000, and the Community Development Company of Nesting, which borrowed almost £176,000.

The trust said two large new projects were being considered which require loans totalling around £900,000. As a result, trustees agreed on Thursday to raise the maximum fund pot from £1 million to £1.5 million to ensure spare funding is available for other projects that may come along during the next year.

Cooper said it was an “excellent scheme which has quietly helped so many community groups achieve their ambitious goals”.

Small community groups in the islands will also have the opportunity to bid for grants of up to £5,000 from a funding stream that opens on 1 December.

The small grant scheme, which aims to reduce inequality and social exclusion, has a £100,000 funding pot for 2022-23 having more than trebled in size last year as 17 charities obtained grants during 2021.

It can provide up to 75 per cent of project costs and is open to constituted community groups with turnover of less than £50,000 a year operating in social care and welfare, arts and culture, heritage and the environment or sport and recreation.

The closing date for applications is 26 January 2022, with successful bidders expected to receive their grants in April.