Third of John Muir Trust jobs at risk over 'serious financial deficit'

Staff at the charity were told this week that up to 19 posts could go as the charity’s operating costs have been “considerably higher” than its income.

More than a third of staff at one of Scotland’s leading wildlife charities could be served redundancy notices due to funding issues, it has been confirmed.

Staff at the John Muir Trust were told this week that up to 19 jobs could be axed as it faces a "serious financial deficit".

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A spokeswoman said the trust had been working in a "particularly challenging financial environment", which meant its costs were higher than its income and resulted in a "significant decrease in unrestricted funds".

19 jobs are at risk at the John Muir Trust, the charity has announced (pic: Katharine Hay)19 jobs are at risk at the John Muir Trust, the charity has announced (pic: Katharine Hay)
19 jobs are at risk at the John Muir Trust, the charity has announced (pic: Katharine Hay)

It has been reported the charity had a budget deficit of £600,000.

The trust spokeswoman said: “Our budget and financial planning process for the current year revealed a serious financial deficit that would have resulted in our unrestricted funds, the money we need to hold to operate, falling below our policy minimum level. This policy minimum exists to ensure we have sufficient unrestricted funds to continue to operate.

“We responded by rapidly reducing our costs in all areas of the business, but even after doing that we have not reached the minimum financial level required of us. Sadly, we are left with no option but to take the incredibly difficult decision to put up to 19 posts at risk.

"A consultation process has begun, and during that period we will explore the possibility of minimising posts at risk. Our overriding priority is the financial viability of the Trust and its vital role to protect wild places. We must do all we can to continue that important work.”  

The announcement comes after the trust’s chief executive David Balharry was exonerated following an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct.

The trust never revealed exactly what accusations Mr Balharry had been facing, citing issues of privacy.

He had been suspended and placed on leave for five months last year while an independent investigation reviewed.

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After he was exonerated in November last year, the charity’s chairwoman Jane Smallman said: “We are delighted to have David return and pleased that we can now get back to focussing on our core objectives of protecting and restoring wild places for the benefit of communities, climate and nature.

“Following this investigation we will now seriously address what we can do, to better protect staff from false allegations in future.

“The Board of Trustees would like to thank the staff for continuing to work with professionalism and passion during what has been a difficult period.”

The trust, which owns Quinag and Sandwood Estates in north-west Sutherland, was established in 1983 and is named after the Scottish conservationist who is known as the father of national parks in America.

The charity, which has around 70 staff members, campaigns for protection of wild land.

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