A reduction in spending and stricter management has seen UCD Students’ Union enter 2013 in a stronger financial position than last year. UCD Students’ Union President Rachel Breslin is happy with the “huge reversal” which has been made financially by the Union and is hopeful that it will continue into the future.
However, while the Union spent much less than budgeted in the July to December period, with expenditure significantly lower than previous years, Breslin is unsure if this trend will remain static. “We spent much less than budgeted, much less than previous years,” says Breslin. “Our expenditure was so low this year though; I wouldn’t expect it to continue in the future. You can’t both cut budgeting drastically and manage it, and expand at the same time. I would have liked to do that more this year.”
Breslin believes that the decision made by all Officers this year to reduce spending, and operate at the lowest possible cost has contributed greatly to the financial position of the Union now, and that controlling the budget was important for the SU at a time when students were feeling particularly distant from the student governing body. “Students have been bemused and bewildered by the Union. I think we need to show the students that we have our Union under control. Every Officer has spent less which has been a conscious decision,” says Breslin.
Controlling expenditure through use of a Board of Directors and the production of monthly management accounts presented to Union Council have also assisted in reducing the large deficit previous students’ unions amassed. Breslin wanted to “firmly ensure that there was a culture-shift” away from the previous ethos of “throwing money around”. Being aware of the financial position and that public opinion was not in the Union’s favour prompted such a shift.
The SU has not begun paying instalments on the €1.1 million loan which was approved last semester, however it is budgeted for each month so that when repayments begin, it should not pose a problem for the Union. Breslin believes that this loan was a “completely necessary” cash influx, and has allowed the Union to continue operating; allowing it to continue meeting its suppliers’ needs and all other demands on the Union’s finances.
The steps taken to reduce the debt have so far worked for the SU, but Breslin acknowledges that they must continue in the same vein in order to survive: “I think that with prudent management, the worry that we had last year and the worry I had at the start of my year about our survival is not there any more. It’s still very difficult day-to-day to manage our cash flow, meet our obligations; it’s difficult but it’s happening.”