Monday, 28 October 2013

QCEA at a turning point

QCEA at a turning point

The Quaker Council for European Affairs was founded about 35 years ago by European Friends whom it keeps abreast of political developments in Europe and on whose behalf it makes representations to those in decision-making roles based on our fundamental beliefs on issues relating to peace, human rights, economic justice, democratic governance and sustainable energy security. The payment of the Representative and 2 or 3 Programme Assistants (PAs) has very recently had to be amended as a consequence of changes in Belgian law.

The previous Representatives were not taxed on the value of the flat in Quaker House that they occupied as a condition of their employment. In 2012 we learned that from then on tax would be levied on the occupant for the flat’s full market value of 920 euro/month. To enable this, a salary is being paid higher by an amount that, after tax, covers most of this additional payment. This, in turn requires additional social security payments (ONSS) at the high rate charged in Belgium. QCEA has to pay much more while the Representative ends up with a lower disposable income. We have recently heard that PAs must receive additional terminal bonuses equal to 15% of their salaries and that some other ONSS payments are to increase.

The funds of QCEA
The costs of maintaining historic Quaker House are great and QCEA will not use for this purpose money Friends give for Quaker work, so Council pays them from a separate House Fund established some years ago. Into this go any surplus (after all expenses have been covered) from hiring rooms to outsiders, and the subsidies for the house maintenance and renovation from the landlord (Britain Yearly Meeting) and Brussels Capital Region. At the end of 2012 it had a debit balance of 13 500. This has turned to a credit in 2013.
QCEA’s other money (the General Fund) includes a Cashflow Reserve of about 3 months expenses (65 000 euro), available for when expenditure precedes income. The rest – the General Reserve – can be used, while it lasts to fill any gap between the income and expenditure over the whole year. It started 2013 at almost 150 000 euro, thanks to an anonymous gift of 60 000 and a legacy of 15 000 in 2012. We now review how far this can help QCEA.

The financial position of QCEA
Most of QCEA’s expenditure is for staff pay and on-costs. In 2011, within the then larger staff, the total cost of salaries and ONSS for two Representatives, 2 PAs and the office manager was 126 000 euro. In 2014, we expect to be paying 173 000 euro for one Representative, a Deputy Representative, 2 PAs and the office manager. This is the main reason why, even with reduced staffing, we anticipate an overall budget deficit of 40 000 euro, with the General Fund’s expenditure exceeding its income by 50 000 euro while the House Fund adds a prudent 10 000 towards future works costs. Given that the General Fund is likely also to be in deficit in 2013, about half of the General Reserve is likely to have been eroded by the end of 2014. A deficit in 2015 like that of 2014 would make the General Reserve insufficient to cover the following year.

A worst case scenario
If income does not increase significantly before the budget for 2015 is prepared, with projections to 2016 and beyond, Council may feel QCEA needs to reduce staffing further by the end of 2015 in order to continue to operate in future years. Reduction in staff would have a more than proportional impact on advocacy; far less could be accomplished as essential management work necessarily takes a certain amount of time.

An increase in donations will avert disaster
Friends on Council from all the Yearly Meetings are sure that the Quakers they represent wish QCEA to continue and, if anything, intensify its activity. The need for a Quaker voice speaking to such institutions as the European Union, the Council of Europe and the European Investment Bank as well as to members of the European Parliament is great – as is the need to explain to Friends around Europe what is really going on at these levels.

An increase in donations is therefore needed to an overall level about 25% above that of 2012. This should not be too difficult. In 2012 there were trailblazing gifts from well-wishers: let the need be known and such gifts may be repeated! Besides that, some Yearly Meetings – and their constituent monthly and local meetings – may be able to contribute more substantially – or in some cases even for the first time – to this essential Quaker work.

Make sure that any turn is for the better!                                       Tom Heydeman, treasurer, QCEA