Union’s future uncertain

The Students’ Union has predicted a huge budget shortfall for this academic year. It expects its income to be around £100,000 less than needed to keep it running.

The forecast raises the prospect of significant changes and cutbacks in the operation of the Union to deal with the budget deficit. A statement by the Union’s Board of Trustees states that they “intend to take decisive action to address the current and ongoing financial position so as to ensure the continued viability and longevity of the organisation.”

“No firm action has been decided upon yet. We’re looking at everything and nothing is being taken off the table,” said next year’s Finance Officer, Stuart Stanley.

“It’s a time for change but it’s not the end. We need to make sure the changes are in the right direction – focusing on what students want more than ever,” he added.

“The Sabb team is united in asking the students to rally behind their Union,” said SU President Andrew Bradley.

He continued: “We know that cost of living is the main concern for students, so we’re looking at ways of targeting the non-student pound. Everything we’re doing is in the best interests of students. We’re taking feedback very seriously – we have just done the Big 5 survey and have over 3,000 responses which we’re acting on.”

The original business plan for the rebuild expected a significant portion of the Union’s income to come from “conferences and other vacation activity,” although anticipated revenue from this is much less than originally hoped, the trustees’ statement said. The Union blames the lack of conference income on the current global economic situation.

“I’m confident we can recoup,” said Andy Perkins, SU Governance and Finance Officer. “We’re still trying to implement stuff from the Big 5, but looking at cost-effective ways of doing it.”

“The more money we get in, the fewer cuts we’d have to make,” he added.

Although the Union has been running a deficit through the rebuild, the University were “supporting us”, said Perkins. “Given the rebuild cost and the University’s support for that, they made it quite clear that they wouldn’t be supporting us anymore,” in light of the University’s own financial situation.

At the end of the 2008-2009 academic year, the Union’s reserves had a deficit of approximately £504,000. At the start of this academic year, the Union predicted a surplus of £525,000, which would have put it back into positive reserves. That figure has now been revised to a £425,000 surplus, which would leave the Union £100,000 off target for this academic year, with £80,000 of negative reserves. Ending the year with negative reserves could throw the Union’s future into jeopardy.

Due to the Charities Act 2006, the Union must change its charitable status. The referenda last week chose to switch to a charitable company limited by guarantee, which is planned to go through in August, the start of the next academic year. This change requires the Union to be in positive reserves.

The SU is still trying to come up with solutions to cover the debt. As the trustees’ statement reads: “The Board of Trustees is now examining all areas of income and expenditure and will begin consulting with members on priorities for the future.”

[Editorial: Union’s fate concerns us all](/comment/2010/mar/15/unions-fate-concerns-us-all/) »


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