Upper dale farm charity 'busier than ever'
By Trevor Brookes - Editor
“WE’RE doing everything we did before – and more.”
That's the message from charity Utass (Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services) to farmers worried that it has cut back on agricultural support.
The charity’s annual meeting last week heard how Utass has risen to challenges faced by remote residents over the past year – from Covid-19 lockdowns to Storm Arwen devastation.
As well as taking on extra community services, Utass says it is in a strong financial position, despite the pressures of the pandemic.
Charity chairman Richard Matthews said: “The stresses caused by coronavirus and the changing face of agriculture have meant the support and advice provided by Utass has been as vital as ever.
“The hardworking staff led by our manager, Bob Danby, have all gone above and beyond to make sure that Utass has been there for people throughout Teesdale and Weardale.
“As a charity reliant on external funding we are always conscious of what the future may bring, but there is no doubt that Utass is currently in a strong financial position.”
The annual report showed for the year ending December 31, 2020, Utass had an income of £381,917 – including donations of £47,790, grants worth £138,232 and £193,806 made from its charitable activities.
Expenditure, including staffing and overheads, stood at £319,050, meaning there was a surplus of £62,867. Overall, the charity had £384,217 in the bank.
This year will be the last of Mr Matthews’ five-year tenure as chairman and he will be replaced by Barnard Castle-based solicitor Michael McGarry.
Utass manager Bob Danby praised staff and the charity’s 70 helpers who are estimated at contributing £65,000 worth of volunteer time.
He said: “The repeated changes to lockdown in 2021 quickly convinced us that any firm planning about the services we provide was futile.
“Some members have expressed concern that we have reduced the level of support to our agricultural members.
“I want to reassure you that we do everything we have always done. We just do a lot more in addition.”