Council reviewing children's services

Northern Grampians Shire Council has announced a review of its children's services model, to ensure programs are able to continue to run cost efficiently.

The model is being reviewed by council as part of a commitment made in its Council Plan for 2013-15. The Council Plan has a strong focus on ensuring council is delivering cost-effective programs across the entire municipality.

Mayor Cr Kevin Erwin said the assessment was part of a broader review being undertaken of council-run services.

Northern Grampians Shire Council has announced it will be reviewing the delivery of children's services across the shire.

Northern Grampians Shire Council has announced it will be reviewing the delivery of children's services across the shire.

"In our current Council Plan we made a commitment to facilitate services that meet the needs of all residents, without placing an unnecessary burden on ratepayers," Cr Erwin said.

"We believe that examining each of our current services, gathering evidence and questioning the way we currently do things is the best way to ensure our services are running efficiently.

"Children's services is heavily subsidised by ratepayers and this is not sustainable in the long term. Our main focus is on maintaining and improving the service, but we need to ensure that this is being done in a way that is both efficient and cost-effective."

At the time the Council Plan was released, the mayor of the day, Cr Wayne Rice, said service reviews were necessary across the municipality.

"This plan has been prepared by a new Council with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective," Cr Rice said.

"Councillors spent many hours identifying key objectives and priorities that will drive council operations over the next four years.

"All of the strategies listed focus on achieving one of two objectives - improving the social and economic viability of the shire or delivering targeted projects and core services. Council has selected these objectives as the most important measures of success.

"In developing this Plan we have gone back to basics and looked at what we as a Council can do to support our communities to thrive.

"Over the next four years we have made a commitment to examine what we do and how we do it. By questioning the current model, reviewing our services and gathering hard evidence, we believe we can achieve the best outcomes for this municipality and its people.

"While it is easy to create a Council Plan 'wish list', we have a responsibility to ensure our objectives are achievable. The financial sustainability of small rural councils is increasingly difficult to attain and Northern Grampians Shire Council continues to advocate to both state and commonwealth governments for increased, ongoing and direct funding to bridge the infrastructure and services gap.

"Balancing our visions with the resources available has been a key focus of this Plan. Before committing to projects council must examine the underlying capacity of our communities to pay for the infrastructure and services to maintain basic quality of life. With this in mind, we believe we have developed an open and transparent plan that will allow us to move forward with confidence."

Following a meeting on Monday night, several parents raised concerns about the future of children's services. They were also concerned for the positions of current staff members, particularly at the Taylors Gully precinct.

However, Cr Erwin said staff at Taylors Gully Children's Centre and St Arnaud Children's Precinct were being consulted on the review and their feedback would be considered in the recommendations put forward to council.

"It is important to note that no decisions have been made at this point in time, and as a council, we are currently reviewing all the options available to us," he said.

"Changes to services are not something that we take lightly and any changes we decide to make will be done to provide the best outcome for the Northern Grampians Shire as a

whole."

A report and accompanying recommendations are expected to be presented to Council at its next ordinary meeting in Stawell on June 30.

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