IT WAS like the Tale of Two Cities for the Bass Coast Shire and the South Gippsland Shire in last week’s Federal Budget.
Where South Gippsland had laid the ground work, put in its application and stumped up $2 million of ratepayers’ money for the Karmai Community Children’s Centre at Korumburra, in order to get the final $1.6 million to make it happen, Bass Coast got nothing.
Worse, they didn’t even put in an application for National Stronger Regions Funding.
And they don’t look like making the July 31, 2015 deadline for the second round.
It’s not that there’s any shortage of projects.
There’s the shire’s own politically-skewed priorities on Phillip Island, to which you can add the need for a proper sports and aquatic centre in Wonthaggi and, desperately, a children’s centre at Corinella.
There would be dozens of others and to think they couldn’t even put in an application for one of them is verging on negligence.
No, the problem was (if you can believe it), the council couldn’t find the money in last year’s $68.5 million spending program to even cover the payments on a loan for matching project funds, much less actually allocate ratepayers’ money to attract government grants.
So while Korumburra will gain a huge economic and social boost out of having 120 childcare and early learning places in the town, allowing more mums and dads “to get out there and have a go” by looking for work or even by expanding and starting businesses, Bass Coast will continue dragging the chain.
It’s hardly surprising that Bass Coast had no money for matching grants last year when it budgeted to spend more than $28 million on staff wages.
All of those people working for Bass Coast, 335, 328.1 or 325.1 in total (or whatever number they’re quoting this week), might well be gainfully employed but Bass Coast (income $74m) has a staggering 60 staff members more than its near neighbour Baw Baw (income $89m), a much bigger and busier shire.
But, unlike Baw Baw, Bass Coast has continued to refuse to hold the same sort of review of positions which saw Baw Baw recently make $1 million in savings on 35 positions, while reducing staff numbers by seven.
If it’s a case of shire jobs versus children’s services; the shire’s execs should be moving heaven and earth to deliver those improvements, even if it does mean undertaking a wholesale review of staff positions.
We hear the CEO saying Bass Coast doesn’t raise enough money in rates but the reality is that rates are already going up at seriously unpopular levels and that’s not going to be the solution.
The council has shown some sign in this year’s budget of being prepared to cut its cloth according to available funds, but they’ve taken too long to act.
And it’s the community that is being made to suffer.