CUSU's budget predicts a further £75,000 in deficit over the coming yearLouis Ashworth

The trustees of CUSU have released their full operational report for the year ending June 2016, accompanied by annotated accounts which suggest the student union had ran up a £100,000 deficit by April this year.

Signed off by CUSU’s new president, Daisy Eyre, two weeks ago, the report summarises the student union’s achievements, but avoids detail on the now well-known funding crisis which it has been slipping into over the past two years, as well as details of large operational cuts.

It makes no mention of the financial difficulties which led to the student union substantially cutting funding to The Cambridge Student, which has been forced to switch to a fortnightly print.

The release of the report, via the Charity Commission website, follows the long-overdue release of CUSU’s finances for 2015–16, which were published – almost four months late – on Saturday. 

In Easter term, CUSU passed a budget for the coming year which projected a deficit of £75,000. The student union has been losing money as it struggles to move on from over-dependence on a single publishing contract. The total losses to CUSU’s reserves, taken over several years, are likely to be around £200,000–300,000, on current figures. CUSU received a University bailout in early 2015, and is currently in the process of negotiating for a second bailout, expected to be in the region of £100,000.


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The newly-released trustees’ report pertains to the year in which Priscilla Mensah was CUSU president (i.e. 2015-16), and is accompanied by accounts for the year. Alongside the accounts, there is a notes section, which contains information about the period since, largely pertaining to the 2016–17 operation year.

Under the heading ‘going concern’, the report says “The trustees have reviewed the post year end results to the date of signing these financial statements and in this period a deficit in excess of £100k has occurred”. The signatory date was 9th August, but CUSU told Varsity that the information actually pertained to April this year.

Eyre said: “this prospective £100k loss was reported in April 2017, at which point the publications contract for the 2016–17 year was still in discussion.”

The student union’s general manager, Mark McCormack, had predicted losses “in the area of £140,000” for the operational year – ending this June – which Amatey Doku, the previous president, revised to £70,000 after CUSU struck a one-off publication deal.

The losses detailed in the report appear to confirm McCormack’s initial projections.

The report broadly details the actions and achievements of Mensah and her sabbatical team.

It mentions CUSU’s welfare efforts, as well as drives to improve nightlife for women, and increase student understanding of the government’s Prevent strategy.

Initiatives such as CUSU’s rent workshops, and the the launch of the Alternative Prospectus for potential students, are detailed.

The report makes brief mention of CUSU’s ultimately unsuccessful efforts to bring an end to the publication of public class lists, in line with policy set by CUSU Council that was later overturned in a student referendum.

One sentence, in the strategic development section,  is given over to CUSU saying it was “further recognised by its nomination as a students' union of the year at the NUS Awards”. In November, Varsity revealed that CUSU’s award application contained both outright fabrications and exaggerations of the student union’s achievements.

The report ignores one of the year’s most controversial decisions – a significant cut to the funding of The Cambridge Student (TCS), the student union’s newspaper. As part of budget cuts, CUSU announced its intention in Easter 2016 to cut TCS’s budget and end its print edition. The budget narrowly passed, and TCS is now a fortnightly paper during term, as the result of subsequent discussions with Doku.

The student union’s finances and operation will be under continued scrutiny in the coming term, as students launch a financial inquiry into the current funding crisis. The inquiry committee, which does not yet have its remit and scope set, is expected to begin recruiting members in Michaelmas, and to report in early 2018.

Update 3/09/2017: this article has been updated following a comment request response, received from CUSU on 31st August.

In their response, CUSU said that the date the report was signed off does not reflect the date to which the information pertained. The accounts – which contain information tied “to the date of signing”  – were signed on 9th August, but CUSU said the information actually related to April. The article has been changed to reflect this.

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