By Kirra Grimes
A BID to get Bass Coast Shire Council to put more funding into footpaths has failed, with councillors voting against a motion at last week’s Ordinary Council Meeting on the grounds that such decisions should be made at budget time.
Bunurong Ward Cr Julian Brown tabled a motion to increase annual funding for the construction of new urban footpaths across the shire from $70,000 to $300,000, arguing that there were many streets in need of improved safety and accessibility for walkers, wheelchair users, and people pushing prams.
“I’m sure we can all think of busy roads that need footpaths, and in [constructing them], our community would benefit greatly,” Cr Brown told the meeting.
“To me, this is the nuts and bolts of what Council does and the kind of infrastructure we should provide.
“$70,000 is peanuts. It’s unbelievable we’re not spending more,” he said.
Several councillors voiced support for the sentiment behind Cr Brown’s funding pitch but disagreed with the timing, ultimately seeing the motion defeated three votes to six.
“We have a budget process. We sit down for many days on end and we argue about the project; we work it out; we balance it… I agree that we need more footpaths but the current budget’s been done; the next avenue should be the next budget,” Cr Bruce Kent said before voting against the motion.
Island Ward Cr Pamela Rothfield also called for a “proper process” to be followed, and put up her own alternative motion referring any increases in the allocation of funds to new urban footpaths “to the discussion on budget preparation for 2020/21 budget”.
Cr Rothfield’s motion, which was carried, did not include a suggested figure for a funding increase, but she told the meeting she was eager to see one, calling the current budget allocation of $70,000 “absolutely inadequate” for the number of new footpaths needed across the shire.
“I would like to see it grossly increased, and I don’t want to actually see it limited to $300,000. But I think it needs to be done looking at the whole of budget process,” she said.
Cr Brown told the Sentinel-Times after the meeting he would continue his fight for a funding increase, but after three unsuccessful attempts bringing the matter up at budget time, he was “running out of ideas”.
“I’ve been arguing for it ever since we began this term of Council. I’ve put it up multiple times in budget discussions and the extra money hasn’t come, so I tried another way,” he said.
“I’ll certainly raise it in the lead up to next year’s budget, but at some point, you think it’s never coming unless you take a different track.”
He was not buying councillors’ arguments about the need to wait until budget time to make funding decisions.
“I’ve lost count of the number of motions that councillors have put forward, with budget implications, that have got up.
“They get up if people like them. And they get voted down if people don’t like them,” he said.