AGM Hears Of ‘Turnaround’ Year For Scilly’s Wildlife Trust

Wildlife Trust offices at Trenoweth

Wildlife Trust offices at Trenoweth

The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust has experienced “a little bit of a turnaround.” That was the message from Chairman Tim Allsop as he addressed members at the AGM on Friday in the Church Pavilion.

In the past year, the Trust has made staff redundancies and reorganised personnel, embarked on cost-cutting measures and they’ve taken on the Council’s AONB functions.

Tim said he couldn’t understand why there had been two bodies pursuing similar objectives and now the Trust could deliver some of AONB’s wildlife education work.

He said that they have already hosted walks on Tresco and attended the islands’ summertime fetes. And next year, they plan to repair the Lower Moors boardwalk as part of their new AONB remit too.

The Trust has secured a 10-year Environmental Stewardship grant for its land management and although Tim warned the results of the grazing work wouldn’t be apparent overnight, he says that benefits are now being noted on his home island of St Martin’s.

There’ll be a monitoring programme introduced to assess the effectiveness of that management, Tim explained. Although the Trust is following national guidelines for the scheme, Scilly does have unique circumstances, he told the meeting.

There are currently seven unpaid helpers working on land and footpath clearance. They’re accommodated at the Woolpack centre on the Garrison and its facilities have been improved this year for that purpose.

The Trust’s catamaran has also been refitted to meet future MCA requirements.

Tim explained how the charity had reclaimed its independence, ending management and financial contracts with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and bringing those roles back in-house.

But he added that they’ll retain a relationship with the mainland body.

Trustee Steve Manning told the meeting that the 12 months to April 2014 had been “a very good year” and the Trust was “healthy” with £ 413,000 in reserves.

They had expected a £22,000 annual operating deficit but that turned out to be a smaller loss of just under £4,000, although there was some disquiet in the meeting as some members told the chairman they were unhappy that they had not been sent any financial statements before the meeting.

Steve Manning advised that professionals had audited the accounts under discussion and members could request a copy.

But some supporters felt the figures should have been distributed beforehand as in previous years. Ann Gurr felt it wasn’t possible to raise any useful questions at the AGM without seeing the paperwork.

Manager Sarah Mason said it wasn’t normal practice for bodies to send out such data before the AGM and that the Trust was operating within Charity Commission guidelines.

She said that if they had sent the accounts to the membership before the meeting for discussion, it wouldn’t have changed anything and the Trustees were there to represent member interests.

Ken Christopher felt that most people wouldn’t be able to follow the old accounts and the new data provided to trustees was more straightforward. But John Peacock suggested that the financials could be emailed out beforehand next year.

Only one candidate stood for re-election as a Trustee and Steve Manning has retained his position.

There’s uncertainty whether former Exeter University professor and archaeologist Charles Thomas is still the Trust’s President. Sarah Mason said that she hadn’t seen documents suggesting that he was.

Andrew Cooper and regularly visiting ornithologist Dr Rob Lambert of Nottingham University remain in post as Vice Presidents but Sarah advised there’s likely to be a debate on honorary positions soon, as part of a look into their governance.