Over the course of the last couple of weeks, Impact has been gathering information and speaking to all of the candidates for the Executive of your Students’ Union. Our reporters have probed, questioned, and endeavoured to find a way of differentiating between the candidates – to find out to just what is underneath the manifestos and what our potential leaders stand for.
The Finance and Services Officer (FSO) is responsible for the money matters – that means being responsible for budgeting, expenditure and overall financing of a Union with an annual expenditure budget of around £1.8 million. They’re involved in the financing of commercial services like Mooch, The Den, the SU Shops and the Print Shop, while also overseeing the finances of clubs, societies, associates and SRSs. No small task then.
George Hawken writes…
Will Burks has some clear ideas about the actions he would take as Finance and Service Officer and recognises that he will need to spend a large amount of time training the Presidents and Treasurers how to use the new online treasury system. His main goal, however, will be the creation of a new Media Hub. The essential idea of a media hub would be a collection of computers in Portland with advanced software, with an aim of creating awareness of Impact, URN, NUTS and New Theatre. AU clubs, societies and students would also have access to the Media Hub. Burks is also keen to improve the SU print shop, and aims to make it easier to produce higher quality posters, so that students don’t make their posters with private companies and to create more revenue for the SU.
Burks has placed a lot of emphasis on finding external sponsorship and investment to increase the SU’s spending power. Many candidates have emphasised this as the university’s budget will decrease next year, and cuts will have to be made in SU spending. Burks intends to principally find sponsorship from companies which specialise in the industry of particular AU clubs or societies. This will mean searching for different funding for each individual AU club, society or SRS. Traditionally, it has been very difficult and time consuming to secure external funding. Burks intends to make efforts to spend the SU budget more effectively next year. He will send faculty coordinators and the heads of the SRSs on financial management courses. He also intends to give more guidance to AU clubs and societies, to help them make better financial decisions, as well as starting a review of AU and society spending in previous years, to try and avoid any areas of previous financial loss.
Burks’ plans for a media hub and an improved print shop will, however, be expensive and because of the budget constraints of next year could potentially lead to cuts in other areas of SU funding. He has ruled out any further major investment in the Mooch and Den, and the next FSO will have to work hard to justify increases in expenditure on them. However, Burks does hope to increase their income by making Mooch attractive to 2nd and 3rd years, as well as international students, post grads and students from other campuses, and hopes that more people can be drawn into the Den. Budget constraints may limit a massive review of living costs on main campus, and overall it would be unrealistic to expect large price reductions in SU services next year.
With his work as Karni treasurer behind him, voters must decide whether Burks has enough experience to provide the same SU service with a reduced budget, and equally whether his proposals for a media hub and an improved print shop are areas worth investing in.
Chloe Painter’s main aim as FSO would be to provide more extensive financial training to all societies, JCRs, AU teams and SRSs. It is hoped this training would help them make better financial decisions and provide a better service. If, however, this training is to be successful it will need to be short and effective, as the heads and treasurers of these organisations are only in place for one year.
Painter’s second main pledge is that of a ‘fair deal’ for students in the Den, Mooch, SU shops, Week One and the Summer Party. ‘A fair deal’ is essentially making sure students are getting value for money from the SU services, and to place SU funding where it is most desired by the students. Due to the budget restraints of next year, students getting value for money will be an important issue. There will be a lot of difficulty, however, in accurately gauging the opinion of the students. Chloe hopes to remedy this through the SU website, and in particular getting students opinion through online polls.
Painter is committed to boosting the income of Mooch and the Den – the next FSO will face the challenge of bringing more money into the Den especially. While next years likely budget cuts could have an impact on her planned drinks deals, the increased marketing and new events could, however, be effective, and she will “fight tooth and nail” to keep the Den open.
Painter’s third main pledge is of a free transport network to Lenton and other Satellite campuses. She placed the ‘if feasible’ before the pledge as the free bus service only in the very earliest stages of development, and may prove to be impossible. Such a service would take a long time to develop and would only start on a small scale.
Overall, Painter aims to make all the societies, AU teams, JCRs and SRSs more financially responsible, a project which will need effective training in order to succeed. In light of the necessary budget cuts of next year, her emphasis on a ‘fair deal’ will be important. The pledge of an investigation into a free transport link to Lenton and satellite campus is by no means concrete proposal, but will surely excite interest.
Oli Margolis’ main aims as FSO would be to reduce the price of Week One and Summer Party tickets, and increase funding for the Associations: e.g. medics, post grads and international students. As the next FSO will need to reduce SU spending, a lot will depend on Margolis’ third pledge of being able to secure external funding for the union, funding which has often been very difficult to find.
Margolis is committed to a bold move in reducing Week One and Summer Party Ticket Prices. Week One and Summer Party are events which generate a lot of income for the SU, and it had been mooted in Candidate Question Times that a cut in prices could be in the offing. Oli plans to reduce Summer Party tickets by raising the cheapest price that the tickets were sold at last year while reducing the high prices of the tickets sold just before the event. It is important to stress, however, that despite the wording of his manifesto the SU does not make any profit; it only makes a surplus, which has to be reinvested in SU services.
Margolis has placed a lot of emphasis on the need to find alternate streams of SU funding. He focuses in particular on finding external sponsorship, and in this area he has had some experience of success: last year he secured sponsorship for the New Theatre from Price Water House Coopers. Finding external funding has often been very difficult and time consuming, and with a manifesto largely relying on it, Margolis will be hoping that his experience as Treasurer and Fundraising Coordinator at New Theatre over the last two years, respectively, will stand him in good stead to find the extra income.
Margolis has outlined one area for an increase in funding – He is committed to increasing funding for representation and associations, such as medics, post grads and international students. For Margolis representation is “the chief job of the student’s union”, and “representation is more important than other areas”. By pledging to spend more on associations, and reduce SU income by reducing Week One and Summer Party tickets, he will, however, have to cut other areas of SU funding. As more income streams are secured, Margolis has also pledged to move towards “greater financial independence from the university”. A lot will depend on Margolis being able to secure the traditionally difficult and elusive external funding for the union.
Nick Redfern’s main policy is to improve the transparency of spending of the AU clubs, Societies and of SRSs, and to change society spending rules. Redfern is also keen to create online ordering for the print shop and will attempt to expand the range of products sold in the SU shop.
The first pledge on Redfern’s manifesto is to fairly fund societies and AU clubs and like the other FSO candidates, Redfern is keen to improve Mooch and in particular the Den, although concrete ideas of how he would achieve this remain a little unclear. Equally, Redfern, although committed to his second pledge of allocating SU spending where the students most desire it, realises that finding ways of accurately gauging student opinion on this matter will be very difficult.
Redfern is, however, very keen to increase the transparency of AU clubs, societies and SRSs. The last two policies on his manifesto are to increase the accessibility to information on society budgets, and to organise automated statements to society presidents and treasurers. Although the online treasury, which will be installed over the summer, will fulfil these policies, Redfern sees a transparent treasury for societies, AU Clubs and SRSs as vital. He intends to make their budget and spending records accessible to all students. This drive for openness will be coupled with a change to simpler spending regulations for societies. Redfern is also keen to make changes to the SU shop; he intends to do this by creating a greater diversity of products sold, and to cut back on over representation of certain products. He singled out bottled water as an example of this.
Despite being unsure as to the future of Mooch and the Den, Redfern would, however, be looking to create greater transparency on the funding and spending of AU clubs, Societies and SRS. He would also introduce online ordering for the online print shop while trying to create greater diversity of products for the SU shop. Redfern is hoping that his manifesto, focusing essentially on greater ease of use and transparency of SU services will see off his fellow candidates’ more ambitious and expensive promises.