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At the last Union Council, it was announced that LUSU is currently running at a deficit of nearly £200,000. It was claimed that this is due to factors such as the Union’s inability to raise its own commercial income, “changes in social and spending habits, and a lower uptake of LUSU Living rentals than expected.” It has also been argued that the block grant (money given to LUSU by the University) is lower than the equivalent at other universities, and our Students’ Union have therefore requested for a £250,000 increase each year.
Before any further action is taken, LUSU must scrutinise its own finances and seek to reduce running costs, ensuring each penny is being spent responsibly. Everyone must keep a close eye on their finances, and throwing cash at seemingly pointless campaigns or promotions is wholly irresponsible. This is a fine line, and it must be done in a way that doesn’t affect its ability to represent the student voice. Rather than publishing a full end-of-year financial report, I would argue that LUSU’s finances should be published on a regular basis to ensure that they can be not only effectively held to account, but also to nip any issues in the bud as soon as they materialise. This would also be a powerful incentive for LUSU to manage their finances more effectively and to economise.
With the current state of LUSU’s finances, it would be unwise for them not to negotiate an increase in the block grant. However, for that to happen, LUSU must seek to improve its relationship with the University. Unnecessary friction with the University management will not act in the students’ best interest; co-operation is essential, and a working partnership should always be the highest priority.
LUSU also needs to review its commercial activities, especially improving the state of affairs with regards to the Sugarhouse and LUSU Living. LUSU will need to create a decent profit to clear its deficit and continue spending on the services many students need, whilst also having a source of income to keep the Union running in the long term. I may take the unpopular opinion, but I firmly believe that the Students’ Union should aim to make a profit; the deficit is far too high, and there must always be a sustainable income.
I hope the new FTOs enjoy being in their new roles, but I also hope they will take radical steps to take LUSU in a new direction and finally improve their financial outlook after years of deficit. They should have the strength to push through radical changes, even if it means fundamentally reforming the structure of LUSU itself and boosting the role of the Board of Trustees to ensure that the Union’s finances don’t end up in this mess for yet another year.