By Michael Giles
IT’S a bit rich for Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett to be complaining about local shires who say they can no longer afford to cover half the operating costs of their State Emergency Service (SES) units.
Because the state government has made an art form out of setting up services, with an understanding of matching funding dollar-for-dollar, and then progressively withdrawing those funds, leaving the councils holding the baby.
Library funding is the classic case in point but there are numerous others.
State government used to fund the lions’ share of library costs but over the years, that commitment has withered away to less than 15 per cent now.
While Baw Baw is one of those shires which has announced a withdrawal of funding for the SES, South Gippsland will continue to fund both the Foster and Leongatha SES units to the tune of around $25,000 in the upcoming budget.
Apparently Baw Baw is also considering withdrawing its support for the West Gippsland Regional Library Corporation as well.
And it will not be a surprise to see more councils taking a harder line with funding non-core services that should be picked up by the State and Federal governments, in the wake of the cap on rate funding this coming financial year.
Another problem we are going to see more and more of is councils being able to fund the planning for major infrastructure upgrades but not being able to go on and implement those plans, for lack of project funding, and the matching finance.
The Korumburra Town Centre Streetscape Master Plan may well be in that category when it shouldn’t be.
There have been some high-risk issues identified by that plan, to do with truck safety around the s-bend at the top of the town, general traffic safety and pedestrian safety.
Once identified, however, these safety risks must be acted on as soon as possible and expecting the local community to wait until 2020-21 until funding is available just isn’t on.
It’s an issue that needs to be addressed when the matter comes before the council this week.
We don’t want to see shire administrations justifying their own existence by churning out plan after plan without any prospect that they will be funded any time soon.
The community is sick of being used and abused by these processes, called on to participate and then left hanging when no funding is forthcoming.
The State Government might moan about local government withdrawing funding but it’s the lack of adequate funding for country areas from State and Federal sources that’s the real issue.