Deputy mayor resigns in protest

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Deputy mayor resigns in protest

By Brad Lester
COUNCILLOR Kieran Kennedy has resigned as deputy mayor of South Gippsland Shire Council in protest at council’s decision to reduce discretionary funds.
He said council should support the 6384 volunteers in the shire – a figure 30 per cent above the state average – and not force community groups to wait in hope of receiving a Community Grant.
Cr Kennedy vowed to stand down if a notice of rescission to overturn council’s decision to reduce councillors’ discretionary funds from $10,000 to $4000 and divert funds into the Community Grants program was unsuccessful.
That proved to be the case.
He labelled the decision as one of the worst council had ever made.
“I’m very passionate about the community and that’s why I resigned as deputy mayor,” Cr Kennedy later told The Star.
“As deputy mayor, I felt this was done without planning. It was action without any strategy and there has been a devastating reaction from not-for-profit community groups.
“There are 200 such groups in the Coastal Promontory ward. The more you interface with community groups, the more you realise they need assistance with costs.”
Cr Warren Raabe, who moved the motion initiating the change in funding, said the program would free up more than $50,000 for broader community funding.
Cr Lewis said an influx of letters from community groups protesting the action proved that volunteers needed discretionary funds for smaller grants and sooner, rather than waiting for Community Grants to be announced twice a year.
“Volunteers can do things more efficiently and cheaply than we as a council can do,” he said.
“We should really be listening to what the volunteers are telling us.”
Cr Lewis said discretionary fund application forms and guidelines total five pages, whereas the same paperwork for Community Grant applications totals 23 pages.
Grant application outcomes are not known for up to 10 months, whereas fund cheques are often “in the next mail,” Cr Lewis said.
But Cr Raabe remained firm.
He said council needed to be strategic in allocating grants rather than spending money ad hoc.
“It’s not about one or two people having the ability to make a phone call to a councillor and getting money in a couple of weeks,” he said.
Cr Raabe said councillors had handed out money “quickly”, with about 60 per cent of discretionary funds spent in the last three months of the financial year.
“Don’t ask me about the last month,” he said.
“I think to myself, this is why the program needs to be reviewed carefully.”
Cr Jeanette Harding said council’s budget was in a healthy position and therefore council should not be “taking away” from volunteers. Some groups may even now fold, she said.
“We have really stirred up a hornet’s nest here and I’ve almost had people in tears,” she said.
“I urge councillors to think of the people who voted us in. Think of the people who have made South Gippsland Shire the beautiful place that it is.”
Cr Jennie Deane said Cr Lewis’ motion had not offered new information and therefore should not be supported.
She said council’s system would not be workable if it backed a rescission motion at the request of a minority number of people.
“Many groups that got money from discretionary funds are the same people that got grants from Community Grants,” she said.
Cr Deane said about half of applicants for Community Grants had to be refused and more funding available in that program would enable council to fund more
projects.
Cr Bob Newton said council should retain the full fund amount and any unused discretionary funds diverted to the Community Grants program.
He said Bass Coast councillors had $12,000 to spend and could give as much money as they wished to any group.
“I do mingle with our community groups and I do know what their needs are,” Cr Newton said.
He believed volunteers would be able to do less work and council officers would have to pick up extra roles, at a greater cost to council.
Cr Lewis said council no longer had any credibility about claiming to listen to the community.

Short URL: http://www.thestar.com.au/?p=296

Posted by SiteAdmin on Aug 3 2010. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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