The Union’s financial surplus has fallen by more than 98 per cent.
Despite being a not for profit organisation, it aims to make a surplus each year. In 2011 this sum was £28,159, but in 2012 it fell to under £500. Speaking at the Union’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Tuesday, trustee Simon Palmer admitted that the sum is well short of the “desired surplus of £30-40,000”.
Major declines in student spending were highlighted as a major cause. Takings from shops and venues in the Union have plummeted by more than three quarters of a million pounds, compared to last year. Antony Haddley, Union Affairs officer, told the meeting: “the average spend in Fruity is way down”.
Palmer, Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee, blamed the “challenging economic climate”, but said, “Rest assured, the board are doing their best to turn it round.”
Despite Leeds Student’s repeated enquires, the Union refuses to provide details about the financial discrepancy it revealed last September. These ‘bank variances’ were cited as one cause of the shortfall, with Mr Palmer stating at the AGM that “the Union has not been able to recover any of the money.” Despite being pressed for further information, Mr Palmer would not state either the amount that has been lost, or how the discrepancy came about. However, he said an “internal investigation” has shown “we do need to improve some of our processes. ”
Mr Palmer confirmed that the Union is “re-budgeting” to deal with the shortfall but added that there are”no planned cuts to services at all”.
“It is important that we do make a surplus, year on year” said Antony Haddley, Union Affairs officer. Haddley said competition from supermarkets was partly to blame for declining sales at Union shops. “What we need to do is to get people to stop going to Tesco, places like that. With more and more competition than ever before, that does make it hard for us.” Haddley also told the AGM that the instances of students going to the Advice Centre about money issues have risen by 30 per cent in term one, compared to last year, and emphasised that the rise in fees meant more students were being cautious with their money.
Words: Max Bruges and Lucy Snow