● Read Varsity’s blow-by-blow live coverage of Council here

17 Mill Lane, CUSU’s headquartersLouis Ashworth

Council has voted to approve CUSU’s budget for 2017–18, which carries the expectation of a £75,000 deficit in the coming year.

It follows two weeks of dramatic revelations from the student union, which revealed it is anticipating losses to its reserves of up to £300,000, following issues with a key publication contract.

President Amatey Doku faced tough questions at Council, which demanded answers to a number of inconsistencies in CUSU’s story as to how the losses had come about.

The ‘Super’ Council at which it passed, which saw a wide range of motions on topics including NUS affiliation, lasted nearly three hours.

In his opening speech, Doku said that CUSU had received a tax rebate of up to £12,000, and said that a one year agreement with the publisher St James’s House meant that it would make around £60,000 more than anticipated this year. Based on figures given at last Council, the new projected figure for the student union’s losses this year will be around £70,000.

CUSU has stated that it expects to have to apply for a bailout from the University as it seeks to diversify its revenue streams. Doku said that current ideas being floated for future fundraising include ideas connected to graduate recruitment and Freshers’ Fair, but said he could not go into more detail. CUSU general manager Mark McCormack further underlined that discussion of future fundraising activities would be unwise.

Questions from Varsity and Connor MacDonald, president of Emmanuel JCR, sought to clarify inconsistencies in how CUSU had presented previous budgets and publishing contracts. They were left unanswered as Robinson MCR representative Mark Driver called for a procedural motion to vote on the budget.

The motion passed by a strong majority, confirming the proposed budget.

The approved budget includes a series of small cuts, but retains an overall increase in expenditure for the year as a whole, which CUSU has put down to increases in staffing costs. The cuts include general reductions in activities budgets for officers, and changes to the operations of Freshers’ Fair.

Simon Percelay, Chair of CUSU LGBT+, said that his liberation campaign accepted the cuts, but noted his concern that it was the latest in a succession of funding reductions.

Earlier, a motion put forward by members of Wolfson College Students’ Association, which called for an student-led inquiry into how CUSU had lost the money, passed after some discussion. Driver highlighted that it should find the same answers sought by members of Council.

Wolfson External Officer Sebastian Wrobel expressed unhappiness with the U-turn in the story behind CUSU’s funding problems. He asked Council members for their opinions on the funding crisis, and sought to see if anyone was opposed to the inquiry. Daniel Dennis, LGBT+ officer of Darwin – who was elected as a new CUSU student trustees at Council – noted that such enquiries can struggle due to quick turnover in trustees, many of whom are sabbatical officers.

MacDonald gave his strong backing to the motion in spite of concerns around the timeline. Several Council members expressed concerns that the impending summer vacation would disrupt a possible inquiry, with Disabled Students’ Officer Jessica Wing noting that the current sabbatical officers, most of whom are trustees, will leave in July. The motion said that a report should be made at the end of Michaelmas term.

In answer to questions about whether a report could conflict with the CUSU’s Staff-Student Protocol, which prevents criticism of staff members by students, Wrobel stressed that the report would be based on “finding of fact”. President-elect Daisy Eyre suggested that an inquiry could lead to personal attacks against staff or trustees.

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McCormack, the general manager, urged Council to take the advice of the trustees on whether such an inquiry would be possible. Dennis said that he believes many of the new trustees “shared concerns” about CUSU’s funding issues. GU president Chad Allen offered an amendment striking a clause that referred to the Staff-Student policy, which was accepted as friendly by Wrobel.

MacDonald said that, as a result of controversy of CUSU’s last two budgets, “the organisation has been dealt a significant blow to its credibility”. Eyre offered her support for an “in-depth and rigorous” report, but expressed her belief that membership of the inquiry should be “advertised more widely” given its long timeline. Other Council members echoed calls for a slower approach to forming the Committee.

There was near-unanimous support for establishing an inquiry. Several attendees indicated an interest in serving on the committee, but an agreement was reached that a call for members of should be circulated among the general student body. At this point, there was a series of compounded amendments, which ruled that membership of the inquiry should be elected by Council at the first council of Michaelmas, what a report expected in Lent instead. The motion was then carried by a strong majority.

There was some controversy over an emergency motion sent out last night, which sought to have £400 reallocated to CUSU's Ethical Affairs campaigns from the elections budget. The motion was accepted without fanfare before Council began, causing some confusion among members.

Council has already voted on a number of motions tonight, including one to renew its affiliation to the National Union of Students.