Whitley Bay Financial Services Boost Whitley Bay Big Local with Volunteer Support

Whitley Bay Big Local (WBBL) is a community-driven charity that aims to reduce loneliness, address financial exclusion, and encourage action on global climate concerns. Established 10 years ago as part of the Big Local initiative, WBBL became an independent charity in 2017. In 2021 the charity bought the former Job Centre building on Whitley Road and have spent the last couple of years transforming it into a fit-for-purpose community hub.

Whitley Bay Financial Services is a newly established accountancy service directed by Lee Thomson, a former Finance Director of an international finance corporation.

As funding from the Big Local programme comes to an end this year, WBBL faces the challenge of bridging the funding gap to ensure its long-term success. Like many charities, they lacked the resources to hire dedicated finance staff, making it difficult to maintain financial records and generate necessary information for service delivery and trustee reassurance.

With the charity now offering a vibrant café, room hire, and remote working facilities, the task of recording activities, managing payroll, and monitoring the bank balance had become quite challenging.

Lee Thomson became aware of Whitley Bay Big Local as part of a corporate volunteering day, which saw Lee and his colleagues painting walls, even though they were part of a multi-billion-dollar international financial institution. Lee, as outgoing Finance Director and a Whitley Bay resident, got to know a little about the charity and agreed to review the finance systems and processes.

Following a review of the financial systems and processes at Whitley Bay Big Local, Lee identified areas of inefficiency and duplication, ultimately reducing the workload of a part-time staff member by 60%. By streamlining data in the Sage Accounting system, linking up all systems and bank accounts, and implementing automations for improved efficiency and accuracy, Lee greatly enhanced the financial management of the charity.

Thanks to Lee’s guidance, the charity can now access Sage at a glance to see the current cash position, balance sheet, creditors and debtors and feel reassured about their financial position. The Charity’s Board of Trustees were very keen to see improved management accounts that were easier to understand. Lee not only created this, but also advised on a set of indicators that underpin financial performance. The result is a hugely simplified summary of the accounts and a dashboard which represents our financial performance in a set of simple graphs and charts. Trustees are now able to understand the financial position at a glance and have turned their attention to performance rather than trying to understand the numbers.

David Carnaffan, Chief Executive of Whitley Bay Big Local commented: “Looking back, our figures and processes were a bit messy, Lee rolled up his sleeves, fixed the problems and then trained us to make best use of what we have. I would absolutely recommend Lee to other charities.”

Lee commented: “Financial information tends to become confused and overly complex over time. Keeping it simple and in many cases doing less rather than more leads to a much better outcome. This is especially so for an organisation that must keep its costs as low as possible.

“It was a great pleasure to help the WBBL and, hopefully, give David and Debbie (WBBL Chair) the help they need to continue the excellent work of the WBBL. Also, I now have a vested interest as a regular visitor to their most excellent café.”

Lee is an ICAEW chartered accountant He is currently establishing himself as an AIMs accountant and offers substantial discount for charities in North Tyneside. To arrange an informal conversation with Lee, please call 0191 810 5650 or email [email protected].


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