REGION - Northern Grampians Shire Council has agreed to make significant financial contributions to both the Stawell and St Arnaud State Emergency Service units.
The contribution comes at the same time councillors heaped praise on the SES personnel for the work they do for the community and also slammed the State Government for the continual cost shifting onto local government.
Council was advised by chief executive officer, Justine Linley, asking that consideration be given to a request for a council contribution towards the costs of operating the St Arnaud and Stawell SES Units.
Mrs Linley advised that as a result of local government boundary changes, the Northern Grampians Shire had the unique situation of having two SES units within the single municipality.
She said historically, funding of the SES units has been in the form of a State Government allocation which was matched on a dollar for dollar basis by council.
"The government provided a set amount of $5,230.00 to both units until 2009 when the State Government increased the funding to Stawell SES to $14,363 and St Arnaud to $6026 with the expectation that council continue to contribute like sums," Mrs Linley said.
"In August 2009, council resolved to maintain the level of funding to $5,390 for each unit and not match the State Government funding increase. The Municipal and State Government contribution increased with the CPI, with council contributing $5,500 to each unit in the 2011/2012 budget."
In November, 2011 the Municipal Association of Victoria developed a position paper in consultation with councils in relation to 'The future of Local Government's Relationship with VICSES'.
Mrs Linley said the paper identifies the increased demands placed on VICSES and local government as a result of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission and the 'Comrie' Flood Review.
Council was advised that in August this year, Stephen Warren, Regional Manager Grampians for the SES, provided advice that an amount of $6,634 (excluding GST) for St Arnaud and $15,815 (excluding GST) for Stawell would be deposited by the Victorian State Emergency Service into council's account for the 2013-2014 Municipal Emergency Service Unit Subsidy provided by the Victorian Government towards the costs associated with the operation of the St Arnaud and Stawell SES Units. The letter also requests that council match the Victorian Government contribution.
Cr Karen Hyslop moved that council passes on the full Municipal Emergency Subsidy to the Stawell aand St Arnaud SES Units and also makes a financial contribution of $7000 for the Stawell unit and $4000 for the St Arnaud unit.
"I wish to congratulate the SES members on the tremendous amount of work they do in this shire," Cr Hyslop said.
"There was a recent rescue at Mt Difficult and members from Stawell left at 7pm and didn't leave to drive back to Stawell until 3.15am on the Sunday morning.
"I know of some members who then had to be up at 6.15am to set up for the SES Market on the Sunday.
"They just put so much effort into what they do They put their heart and soul into what they do and they are so important for our shire.
"As a council, we should support those who support us."
Cr Tony Driscoll agreed that the funding of the units was important and he was disappointed with the State Government's attitude towards funding.
"As a council we should be disappointed with the fact that the State Government continues to cost shift and make funding like this the responsibility of local government," Cr Driscoll said.
"We should lobby the State Government and remove this impost on local government. As a council we need to contribute, but we would be wrong to commit any additional funding from ratepayer money than what has been moved."