Friday 1 March 2024
 4.8°C   SW Moderate Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Community / Income generation key as finances continue to improve at amenity trust

Amenity trust chief executive Hazel Sutherland (left) and chair Alison Moncrieff (right). Photo: BBC Radio Shetland

THE TURNAROUND in Shetland Amenity Trust’s finances in the last year has been “phenomenal”, according to chair Alison Moncrieff.

She was speaking after accounts showed that the trust, which looks after Shetland’s cultural and natural heritage, recorded an in-year surplus in 2022/23.

“It’s definitely moving in the right direction,” Moncrieff said at the trust’s latest AGM on Wednesday.

The trust, whose activities include operating the Shetland Museum and Archives and the visitor centre at the Sumburgh Head lighthouse, has struggled with finances over recent years.

In 2021 accountant Hazel Sutherland took on the chief executive role at the trust, while Moncrieff – who was re-elected as chair at Wednesday’s AGM – also has a background in finance.

Around two thirds of the amenity trust’s income comes through core funding from Shetland Charitable Trust and Shetland Islands Council, whilst it also receives other grants from organisations like Museums Galleries Scotland and NatureScot.

The meeting heard there was an operating surplus of nearly £190,000 in 2022/23 before year-end adjustments were made.

Speaking after the AGM, chief executive Hazel Sutherland said the focus at the amenity trust was on income generation rather than any cuts.

In 2022/23 the trust saw increased visitor numbers at its facilities, tours, exhibitions and educational workshops.

Among the highlights for Moncrieff were hosting Shetland Wool Week, exhibitions, nature events, peatland restoration and expanding the trust’s horticultural unit.

Shetland Amenity Trust’s Staney Hill tree nursery. Photo: SAT

Referring to how the organisation has a requirement from the charitable trust and the council to deliver services for the community, Sutherland said: “First and foremost we wanted to stabilise that in terms of making sure that we had enough people in the posts to actually do what we’re obliged to do.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

 

“So stabilising that core staff base then just gives you a peerie bit of freedom for them to have enough time in their day to go look for trading income opportunities.

“Some of that is nothing clever or different. It will be for example the tours down at Sumburgh, or the plant sales at woodlands, the talks and events and workshops that goes on here. But it was a deliberate investment in staff and staff time, to then go generate income.”

The trust has previously relied on an overdraft, but Sutherland said this facility was not needed for cash flow in the last financial year, which was described as a “huge improvement”.

Like everyone else, the trust has seen a “significant” increase in its energy bills, but it has been able to manage the rise, and the large museum and archives building is connected to the Lerwick district heating scheme.

When it comes to the staff headcount, Sutherland said the trust will “continue to invest in growing our staff team as long as we have income”.

The charity is continuing to review its estate, including exploring whether buildings like the camping bods can be taken on by communities.

The ruined Park Hall in Bixter was put on the market, while interest was also invited in the community operating the Bressay lighthouse building.

“We don’t necessarily need to be the ones that operate them,” Sutherland said.

Shetland Museum and Archives.

“That’s the shift – we still want to celebrate them and want them back in community use. It’s an honest assessment that we might not always be the best organisation to do the doing.”

Moncrieff added: “Every single person in Shetland owns our heritage. We all have to be involved in it.

“We both have Shetland and the benefit to Shetland at the core of what we’re doing here.

“We’re absolutely committed to making sure that Shetland’s heritage is protected for the future.”

The positive financial picture from the organisation is not quite mirrored by Shetland’s two other key organisations which are funded by the charitable trust but experiencing rising costs.

Shetland Recreational Trust, which operates leisure centres in Shetland, has reduced its headcount and changed operating hours in a bid to balance the books.

Earlier this year Shetland Arts also confirmed it was offering voluntary redundancy to staff as it looked to make another £160,000 in savings.

Meanwhile four new volunteers have been appointed to oversee the work of Shetland Amenity Trust.

The new trustees are Hamish Balfour, Keith Robertson, Margaret Reeves and Shayne McLeod.

Their appointments were confirmed at Wednesday’s AGM.

With Moncrieff appointed as chair, Robert Smith getting the vice-chair role.

The new trustees join Lindsay Tulloch, Bobby Hunter and Vic Thomas. Neville Martin has stepped down.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.

 

Newsletters

Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.