Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

Heeley Farm CEO said ‘don’t apply for funding’, claim staff

Anonymous staff members say they were blocked from applying for grants which could have sustained the organisation and its projects, as 17 workers face redundancy due to budget deficit of £100k. 

White buildings
Philippa Willitts

The Chief Executive of Heeley City Farm told staff members that they could no longer apply for grant funding on behalf of the charity, it has been claimed.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, multiple staff members told Now Then that after Stuart Gillis came into post in May 2022, he told staff they should cease all work on grant funding applications for the organisation.

Several months later, Gillis denied having blocked staff from applying for funding and said that they should resume work on bids, they claim.

The allegations will prompt questions from the community about whether the organisation’s £100,000 budget deficit – and subsequent 17 incoming redundancies from a staff of 47 – could have been lower if more funding opportunities were pursued earlier in 2022.

Staff members also told Now Then that £300,000 of funding, mentioned by Gillis in the public meeting on 15 December as proof that grant bids were being submitted by the charity throughout 2022, was already in motion before he came into his post. They say that while Gillis has a more commercial vision for the farm, he has not yet brought any commercial income into the charity, and that they believe many of the problems experienced at the organisation stem from how he has acted since he was appointed.

Sources paint a fractious picture of the organisation as it enters a period of redundancy consultation, with Gillis having set up his own office space in the former South Yorkshire Energy Centre building, at the opposite end of the farm site to the main office. The Energy Centre was closed down by Gillis in late 2022 after a period of dormancy.

This week the charity began advertising for up to six new trustees. The individuals who take up the voluntary, unpaid positions could be critical to the farm's long-term strategy and future, with Voluntary Action Sheffield managing expressions of interest on behalf of Heeley City Farm until Monday 6th February.

Any further plans to engage the local community in the future of the farm haven't been announced. Gillis told Now Then last week that a decision about what will happen to its cafe space will be reached by trustees by the end of January.

Stuart Gillis chose not to comment on any of the claims made about him in this article.

by Sam Walby (he/him)
Filed under: 

More Sheffield News

More Sheffield News