Hatfield’s JCR exceeded planned budget by £44,000

By Will Hutchings & Oscar Elmon

Last year, Hatfield College’s JCR overspent its planned budget by £44,447.26. The news was announced by current treasurer Sam Goring at an Ordinary General Meeting on 6th October.

The loss, accumulated over the last financial year (August 1st 2018-July 31st 2019), came as a blow, since the previous JCR had planned to break even on their budget.

A considerable amount was lost due to oversights and ‘administrative errors’, particularly with regards to last year’s Freshers’ Week, where the cost was approximately £25,500. An increase to the JCR levy, from £230 to £240 year-on-year, as well as increased attendance at formals were also thought to contribute to overspending.

A considerable amount was lost due to oversights and administrative errors

The JCR exec has also identified debt acquired by clubs and societies over time (totalling around £1,500) and issues with reclaiming VAT as major sources of the overspend. 

It can be confirmed, however, that this VAT will be reclaimed in full, which the JCR estimates to be at least £3,000. In addition, JCR sources believe another £3,500 is definitely recoverable.

In light of the overspend, the budget for the Facilities Officer and JCR Chair have been cut, whilst the Welfare and Events budgets remain unchanged.

The scale of the oversight was only realised in late August, meaning that the Treasurer, Goring, and JCR Senior Man (President) Kathryn Rogers are still in the process of identifying exactly how much is reclaimable.

The scale of the oversight was only realised in late August

Goring made clear to Palatinate: “Michaelmas and Epiphany is where most spending takes place,” and as such, this was where the vast majority of the overspending occurred.

The news comes amidst a time of change for the College; the previous academic year (2018/19) saw levies switch to an opt-in system, and this academic year will see the Senior Man occupy a sabbatical position for the first time, with wages now factored into the budget.

Resultantly, the JCR lost more money than expected as many students opted out of paying levies. However, the budget is expected to be more accurate moving forward, since it will now more accurately factor in losses from the new levy system.

In the face of these setbacks, the Exec remain resolute and optimistic. The Exec told Palatinate that they are determined to have better oversight of clubs and events, leading to more responsible money management.

In the face of these setbacks, the Exec remain resolute and optimistic

Moreover, further inspection confirms that the JCR budget has, in fact, remained solvent and fulfilled financial obligations, proving the consequences of the overspend to be less detrimental than might first appear. Crucially, the JCR’s day-to-day spending has also been unaffected.

In order to make up for the losses, the JCR is planning to cut back on capital expenditure and improve the levy payment system.

Improvements are being bolstered by a new Treasury Team, which has two Senior Officers and is to employ Juniors in coming weeks. The team is in discussion with the Durham Student Organisations (DSO) framework to further assess why the problem wasn’t spotted sooner.

Senior Treasurer Max Hart has stated that the team has an “emphasis on being proactive rather than reactive.”

Rogers, as the first Senior Man to occupy a sabbatical position, will now have “more time to oversee treasury proceedings,” according to Goring.

Overall, Goring said he was “confident” in his budget; since it has been rebuilt “from the ground up” with the overspending taken into account, the JCR’s financials should be “completely fine”.

Senior Man Kathryn Rogers echoed these sentiments in a statement to Palatinate. According to Rogers, although “the general reaction within the meeting was shock,” the rest of the JCR seemed to have “a large appreciation for the work of Sam and myself”. 

She also claimed to be “very confident” that, thanks to Goring’s budget, “the JCR will remain in a state of both balance sheet and cash flow solvency”.

Image: Hatfield College

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