FabulousPhilIF THE Bass Coast Shire Council had millions of dollars in spare cash sloshing around, why shouldn’t it accept more applications from the area’s local sporting clubs, and give everyone an annual allocation of $5000 for trophies, like it did some months ago to the Phillip Island Boardriders’ Club. That would certainly save volunteers going out to local businesses and asking for sponsorship money as they do each year. Cr Phil Wright argued black and blue at the time that it was a good use of council funds to give his favourite club the money. That is despite the fact that the ‘Councillor Ward Discretionary Fund’ policy, under which the funds were granted, says the money should go to “small projects within each ward… to assist in the realisation of these projects”. Trophies are not a ‘project’. The idea was clearly outside the terms of the program, which was originally supposed to seed small community capital works, that couldn’t be funded through the shire’s budget processes. And the councillors demonstrated that they knew as much at the time. But they didn’t stop the money going through. Who knows why. Previous councils have allowed similar rorts, like the time they tried to give ward funds to an activities program at the Fulham prison near Sale. The truth is that the shire doesn’t have millions of dollars sloshing around, as evidenced by the cuts made recently to such basic services as the maintenance of the only sealed road into Pioneer Bay. And it shouldn’t have been wasting our money in such a cavalier fashion. The petulant attitude of Cr Wright, the complicity of his fellow councillors, the lack of process by shire officers and past rorts of this program will almost certainly see it scrapped at the next shire council meeting. And it’s no longer just this newspaper criticising council for rorting its own Councillor Ward Discretionary Fund. The shire was specifically criticised recently by the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate, as part of a statewide review, for the lack of appropriate controls on the fund. The results of the review prompted a stern warning last week from the Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell, who has threatened to abolish the funds or at the very least, apply tight controls to their use. It’s a great pity that some our local councillors have chosen to abuse the real aims of this fund because there were many small, worthy projects that benefitted by it over the past seven or eight years. No one would begrudge a foreshore committee topping up its project money from the ward fund to complete a community barbecue, for example. And many small events and activities would not have gone ahead without a few hundred dollars here or there from the fund. In fact, the majority of the allocations from the fund were of real benefit to the community. But because of the lack of reasonable controls and the willingness on the part of some councillors to abuse the system, an otherwise worthy program will be scrapped and more control over the public purse conceded to shire officials. It’s not the Phillip Island Boardriders’ Club’s fault that Cr Wright insisted they get the money for their trophies but the incident will now live on in infamy as the grant which killed the community’s golden goose.