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Charitable Trust, independent of Council


marlin13
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I entirely agree Ghostrider. Let the Councillors focus on providing the services that the local authority is supposed to provide, and let the trustees of the CT worry about the financial, economical and commercial aspects of the community.

 

By the way, I believe (and I could be wrong!) that the oil funds are split roughly 50/50 with about half in the CT and the other half lurking somewhere in the dungeons of the SIC.

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By the way, I believe (and I could be wrong!) that the oil funds are split roughly 50/50 with about half in the CT and the other half lurking somewhere in the dungeons of the SIC.

 

If this is the case, then removing the SCT from councillor/trustree control and in to elected etc trustee control, is little other then a red herring issue at present. I can sympathise just a hint with Sandy's mantra "its worked for 30 years, so why break it", as outwith the Charities Regulator's pleepsin and the SCT unwisely dabbling in ownership issues of Viking, the SCT has, and is working reasonably well. Its the other monies, wherever they are secreted, some of which have been merrily pissed away as per SSG, Judane et al that is the worry, and the area most in need to getting to grips with.

 

Its time, in my mind at least, for all the little "oil money" funds scattered here and there which are by default governed by councillors with other hats on, to come in to the control of trustees elected for the specific purpose of managing them as profitably as possible, for the future wellbeing of the isles, and in a publically transparent accountable manner.

 

The EDU has some of the cash, yet while a visit to their site tells you much about what they can do for you if you have an investment/development idea, I could find beggar all about how well the money they are investing on our behalf is performing. That as I see it is wholly unacceptable. There has to be a pretty penny tied up in SLAP, every second industrial building that comes up for one reason or another, it seems they either own the building, the site, or both. Yet when was there ever anything said about how well (or not) this investment was performing and what its practical benefits are to the isles? If it wasn't for an occasional mention in the media of some firm doing something with one or other of SLAP's pieces of real estate (like the mention the other day Blueshell were interested in the old Ronas fish factory pier) folk could be forgiven for thinking SLAP no longer existed.

 

What other "oil money" entities are lying virtually forgotten gathering dust, with money in them doing anything from good, to bad or ugly, in some corner of the Town Hall?

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Two or three years ago one of the independent trustees of the Development Trust (as it was then) managed to persuade them to issue a leaflet explaining what they had invested in, and basically how they were doing. I think that also included the SLAP investments. Since his term ended, there hasn't been a peep out of them so now no-one knows what investments they have, nor how well or bad they are doing. Personally I think that is deplorable.

 

Of course the vast majority of the SIC oil-funds are invested by "experts" in the stock market and such like, and I have no doubt that it makes a reasonable return over a period of time, bar the odd recession and market downturn.

 

I do agree with your comment that ALL of the oil funds should be brought together, and in my view all of it should come under the CT which should be managed by independent trustees, for the good of the community.

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has it worked for 30 years?

 

As a rich charity has it focused adequately on those who were left behind or acturally damaged by the huge changes the oil era brought?

 

I daresay the definition of "worked" needs debate. It has "worked" insofar as its still there with a good sized pot of capital, and it has put quite a reasonable contribution in to certain sectors of the local community. As far as something run by folk as a side job to the one they were appointed to do, I suppose it could have been a lot worse.

 

Could it have been worth more today? Probably. Could it have been distributed more fairly? Very likely.

 

Like I said I can sympathise a hint with Sandy's mantra, its not the easiest to try and prove its "broken", but it almost certainly could be made to work much better.

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I don't know the split of funds between various bodies. However, the funds the Council EDU have access to come from the Reserve Fund. This fund is used to support and provide a wide range of services, and also would appear to be where SIC has gone when needing to balance its books and cover any overspends. This is the focus of attention now and in recent years for cutbacks on spending, so as not to deplete the Reserve Fund any further.

A lot of what is done through SLAP would never be regarded as Charitable actvity as it is wholly commercial. You could say that SLAP now has nothing to do with the 'oil' money' as it has become self sustaining, is profitable and able to invest further in its portfolio as it sees fit. The only question for me is wether it should be controlled wholly by nominated councillors.

 

I am no expert on SIC 'oil funds' and it would indeed be very helpful to have a laymans version of the complexities in order to have a valid forum discussion!

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I am no expert on SIC 'oil funds' and it would indeed be very helpful to have a laymans version of the complexities in order to have a valid forum discussion!

 

This kinda sums up the whole issue. Its all "our" money and what's done with it is done "in our name", yet we know so little about it.

 

Details of what the organisations handling the funds were and how they were going to operate was probably reported in the media as and when, plus any changes of note made over time likewise. But much of this dates back now so long that remembering the whole story, or for that matter finding it reported bit by bit as it happened in the media over the years is nigh on impossible. The passage of time has inevitably caused a process of evolution on it over the years anyway, along with growth/decline which may or may not have been noted in the media along the way anyway.

 

The SCT seems to make a reasonable amount of information public via their site, but there's always room for improvement. Its entities like SLAP, the EDU, the Reserve Fund and whatnot that are mostly apparently woefully lacking in readily and easily providing information to the public. I see the new CE is proposing a "communications office", hopefully among other things needing to be better told to the electorate, he'll include these.

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I don't know the split of funds between various bodies. However, the funds the Council EDU have access to come from the Reserve Fund. This fund is used to support and provide a wide range of services, and also would appear to be where SIC has gone when needing to balance its books and cover any overspends. This is the focus of attention now and in recent years for cutbacks on spending, so as not to deplete the Reserve Fund any further.

A lot of what is done through SLAP would never be regarded as Charitable actvity as it is wholly commercial. You could say that SLAP now has nothing to do with the 'oil' money' as it has become self sustaining, is profitable and able to invest further in its portfolio as it sees fit. The only question for me is wether it should be controlled wholly by nominated councillors.

 

I am no expert on SIC 'oil funds' and it would indeed be very helpful to have a laymans version of the complexities in order to have a valid forum discussion!

 

There are two sources of oil money. The Reserve Fund is part of the SIC, coming from the profits of the operation of the harbour part of Sullom Voe. The Charitable Trust comes from the Disturbance Agreement, money that is no longer paid out by the oil industry. It receives all its fund now from its investments, local and on the Stock Excahange.

 

SLAP is an investment by the CT, approved by HM Revenue and Customs. In 2009/10 it made a Gift Aid transfer (ie tax deductible) to the Trust of ₤3,828,582.

 

You can see a report on SLAP, including a list of properties owned if you click on this link and go to page 107

 

http://www.shetlandcharitabletrust.co.uk/assets/files/agendas/Sept%20Public%20Papers%20+%20Agenda.pdf

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I am no expert on SIC 'oil funds' and it would indeed be very helpful to have a laymans version of the complexities in order to have a valid forum discussion!

 

This kinda sums up the whole issue. Its all "our" money and what's done with it is done "in our name", yet we know so little about it.

 

A very good point.

 

I understand due to its status, the CT's investments are not covered by the FOIA, however, what could make a big difference to people's views on whether things have worked over the past 30 years, is to publish these as far back as records go.

 

Surely if its all above board, there is nothing to hide :wink:

 

Something worth bearing in mind is that not all crops of councillors have been as bad as this lot, (not all of them of course, there are some perfect for the CT role, but likewise some I wouldn't trust with a bus fare).

 

So, while it's hard to imagine this council running anything properly, what would we be saying about them also running the CT if we had a stellar bunch in. All representing their members faithfully and adhering to the code of conduct to the letter?

 

As I have already said, my view has changed on whether we need an independantly run CT - I believe what we need is a council with the integrity we can trust to run it, as we should be defending "our" right to run the trust.

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Surely "our right to run the trust" can also be achieved through the election of trustees? or are you a councillor?

 

I'm wondering what your take on conflcts of interests is?

 

We have chosen that one group of people, the police, catch suspect criminals and another group see the process of finding out if they are guilty of not through. A third make the laws. Would you be content to see all these jobs done by your local special constable?

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As I have already said, my view has changed on whether we need an independantly run CT - I believe what we need is a council with the integrity we can trust to run it, as we should be defending "our" right to run the trust.

 

Fair point. An independent board of trustees for the CT is not a "must have", its just that the way things are, and the way they seem intent on going, its become highly desirable.

 

The current arrangement and trustees cannot seem to get the Charities Regulator off their backs, and he's steadily rattling his sabres increasingly loudly. If the whole arrangement is righteous, good, competent and above board, they should have seen him off easily long ago. A regulator breathing in over their collective shoulders permanantly and making critical noises, is not a sign that inspires confidence that all is well, or if it is, that it will continue to be well. Independant trustees would remove the regulators two main bones to chew in one fell swoop, the conflict of interest issue, and wanting SCT and SIC accounts linked.

 

Secondly, and that is wholly on the shoulders of the present crop of trustees, is their foolish decision to accept "ownership" of VE. Common sense should have told them that getting involved in such a contentious political hot potato wasn't going to lead to any good. IMHO, as at that time the SIC could not legally own VE and needed to unload it, a wholly seperate of any pre-existing entity "company" should have been created, with nominated directors/trustees to run it while the VE plan was worked up. It could have been financed in much the same way as now, but operating as a stand alone entity it would have prevented much of the flack falling on the SCT directly, and governance of the SCT being used as a tool by VE opponents to fight VE.

 

If the Charities Regulator can be quietened once and for all, and the SCT has the good sense to unload VE from its direct control, I see no pressing need to push for independent governance. However, the longer both issues rumble on unresolved, the more difficult it becomes to believe the governance status quo is working, and can work as well again in the future as it has in the past.

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