Newly published financial statements from Oxford Student Services Ltd (OSSL), the commercial arm of OUSU, show that gross profit fell by almost £40,000 between 2005 and 2006.OUSU sabbatical officers have warned that guaranteed funding from the University is the only way to avoid the Student Union’s current financial crisis. Overall turnover is down by around £100,000 and operating profit has fallen by £7,000.Ed Mayne, OUSU Vice-President (Finance) and OSSL Chairman, said that finances were volatile and prone to fluctuating. “Although the turnover for the 2004/5 financial year was high, the income proved to be unsustainable and many changes were made in the 2005/6 academic year. Due to the way OSSL currently operates, income and turnover will always fluctuate,” he said.OSSL plans to introduce a second business manager next year in a bid to increase revenue. “I am confident that the income we will receive in this financial year will be higher than in the previous financial year. OUSU’s publication provision will not change from its current format,” he added.In 2005, OUSU predicted that it would make a profit of £50,000 but in fact incurred a deficit of £42,702. As a result, OUSU was forced to radically reform its operations for creating revenue to remain financially viable. An estimated deficit of £60,000 the following year was proved wrong when the Student Union lost only £32,904 in 2006. The University has previously stressed that it will not provide further financial assistance until OUSU stops making losses, but the University’s Joint Committee has since reconsidered its position.OUSU President Alan Strickland said that the lack of a substantial block grant comparable to those received by student unions at other universities means that OUSU will remain financially weak due to inadequate funding and few permanent staff. “The volatility of OUSU’s commercial income makes it an unreliable source of funding for welfare, representation and other core services,” he said. “Thankfully, the University’s Joint Committee, which oversees OUSU, has accepted this. We are in advanced negotiations with them to gain stable core funding. OUSU has to guarantee provision of its core services without guaranteed funding. This is a serious problem which I hope we can remedy.”He added that OUSU expected greater OSSL profits in 2007, saying, “The overhaul of OUSU’s financial management which we’ve led this year and the hard work of our Business Manager mean that profits are stronger than last year. I’m confident that our subsidiary will be able to donate a healthier profit to OUSU at the end of the year.”Louisa Brownlee
Police in Jamaica have arrested a woman who is reportedly the mastermind behind a massive extortion racket that spread across seven parishes in that Caribbean nation.The woman was arrested on Sunday, just days after two men had been nabbed in connection with an extortion letter that had been sent to several businesses in seven Jamaican parishes demanding exorbitant payment for protection. The men were collared in the central Jamaican town of Mandeville and 15 of the letters seized, police reported.A third man, Biko March, has been named as a persons of interest in the probe and has been urged by Police to turn himself in.The criminals threatened to kill business owners, their families and staff members if they did not comply with the extortion demands. Demands were made of large businesses to cough up J$100,000 monthly, while smaller businesses were ordered to fork out J$80,000 monthly in order to continue doing business without hassle.“If this is a Company Branch/Franchise and the branch that receives this letter is non-compliant then the managers and workers will be harmed randomly one by one. If this is a shop where multiple people conduct business in then each person will compile what is supposed to be paid and hand it over or individuals who operate business here will be killed and your business demolished. One person will be contacted to hand over the money,” the letter stated.“Please note carefully; whenever you are contacted by phone, nothing but excellent communication is required, do not cut off the phone or stay on the line and say nothing or you will be killed and your business demolished. Zero tolerance will be taken towards late payment and avoiding payments resulting in whatever action/actions that is deemed fit to teach you the importance of compliance and punctuality,” the letter also stated.The extortionists also threatened to kill operators and their staff if they contacted the police and promised gruesome deaths to the relatives of non-compliant business owners. In addition the hoodlums promised maximum security to the business operators who complied with their demands.The extortionists also advised business operators that the only way to avoid payment was to close their businesses.“Do not complain about business being slow and you are not making enough money to pay your dues, if business is slow simply close it down and get out because if you continue to exist without paying your dues you will be at harmful risk,” the letter stated.The police have urged business operators to stand their ground and refuse to give in to the demands of the criminals as they widen their investigation into the matter.