The University of Glasgow’s Students Representative Council (SRC) saw its budgets frozen and services cut during the last academic year, in spite of its highest paid staff member receiving a pay rise.
The SRC reduced its overall “charitable activities” spending by £59,473 during the course of the 2015/16 academic year, which included the rolling back of grants supplied to clubs, societies, and student media totaling £12,093.
The SRC reported financial losses of £38,091 at the end of 2015. Due to its reduction in overall expenditure, including cuts to grants, the Council reported a surplus of £2,789 by the end of 2016.
However, The Glasgow Guardian understands that the permanent secretary, Bob Hay, has seen his salary rise to over £60,000, in spite of the overall cuts to SRC expenditure.
The Glasgow Guardian asked Ameer Ibrahim, president of the SRC, why there had been a £60,000 reduction in spending on “charitable activities”. Ibrahim said: “There has not been a £60,000 reduction. The proportion of charitable expenditure in relation to our income has not changed. Any changes in figures from the previous annual period reflect changes to accounting practice.”
The SRC’s “charitable activities” spending includes its staff salaries, minibus service and student media funding, as well as commercial and marketing activities such as its secondhand bookshop and its advertising budget. The SRC considers anything that is not “raising funds” as a charitable activity in its accounts, enabling it to claim that its proportion of overall spending on charitable expenses has not fallen.
However, as detailed in the Council’s annual accounts report from 2016, the SRC had a total income of £903,817 and spent £901,028, compared to an income of £922,410 and an expenditure of £960,501 in the previous year. While the proportion of spending has remained the same relative to income, the Council’s charitable activity has still seen a real-terms cut.
Only £18,968 was spent on grants to affiliated clubs and societies last year, down from £20,275 in 2014/15. The Council’s student media, including The Glasgow Guardian, Glasgow University Magazine, Glasgow University Student Television (GUST) and Subcity, also had their funding reduced by a total of £10,786 during the 2015/16 year.
Ibrahim explained that this is due to a recent restructuring of how affiliated student media receives funding, saying: “Media is now enabled to ‘roll over’ unspent money from the previous year. In 2016 The Guardian and GUST both generated surpluses, reducing expenditure, the surpluses were then transferred into the accounts for the year ending 2017. In 2015 income and expenditure was exceptionally high due to GUST 50th Anniversary dinner and Subcity’s 20th anniversary activities. There’s always a flexible approach to media budgets depending on annual needs.”
In previous years, The Glasgow Guardian received a £2000 annual grant from the SRC. Last year this changed, with the newspaper understanding that those funds could only be accessed on request.
Ibrahim also commented on why the the Council had one less full-time staff member during the 2015/16 year than in the previous academic year, saying: “Staff numbers at the SRC have remained constant over the last few years. Roles within the organisation are fluid and continue to adapt. The SRC this year has continued to recruit staff, including a Student Engagement Coordinator and further an SRC Communications Officer.”
The SRC receives a block grant from the University, which has remained fixed over the last two years at £585,084. When asked why it did not increase the size of its grant in spite of the SRC running a £36,000 deficit in 2015, a spokesman for the University said: “The University provides direct funding to the SRC. The exact amount is decided on an annual basis in the light of SRC’s financial position and its forward plans.”