SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council has unanimously voted to hand over the operation of its Home and Community Care (HACC) services.
The emotive decision leaves about 43 workers unsure of their futures. Many of the workers, some visibly upset, were in the chambers to hear the decision. They left immediately afterward.
“It’s obviously a very sensitive topic. When I was doing the lead up to the last election I asked everyone I met what they liked about the Shire. The number one liked service was the health and community service, without a doubt. It’s one of our best services, obviously,” Cr Don Hill said.
“But we’ve got a situation here where the (Federal) Government is making changes to the way these services are being delivered to the community.”
Cr Hill said there had been “many, many, many” briefings over the past four years on the potential changes.
“The first thing I’d like to say is, the work done by our staff is exemplary. And I totally support the staff for the work they’ve done. This issue, though, is about the Government making changes to the way services are delivered, and effectively, after much soul searching and looking at every avenue and every opportunity, it’s come to this.
“This Council does not think we can provide that service, given the changes the Government is introducing. All along this Council has been trying to do the best by the ratepayers, community members who benefit from this service and staff as well.”
Cr Hill’s sentiments were echoed by other councilors, who all attested to the excellent work of SGSC staff.
“It’s a tragedy,” Cr Andrew McEwen declared.
He said councillors had been put between a “rock and a hard place”.
“There’s an ideological infatuation with outsourcing services and privatizing services for the creation of the market. It is now unequivocal after 30 years that 85 per cent of privatised service models fail,” he said.
Despite failure to deliver a better service through a privatised model, he acknowledged there was “a problem”.
“There’s very little wriggle room for Council, since we can’t be both a deliverer and accessor of the service,” he said.
Website scrutiny for Councillors
SOUTH Gippsland Shire Councillors will have their claimed expenses published on the Council’s website, after consensus that improved transparency was needed.
Councillors voted unanimously to adopt the policy.
The change in policy comes after an internal audit, commissioned by the Audit Committee, identified areas where additional guidance to Councillors and staff in managing Councillors’ out of pocket expenses would be beneficial.
Cr Maxine Kiel said the change would lead to greater “open and transparency”.
Cr Jeremy Rich said Council had not reached “the standards which I was hoping we should be at”.
“However, this is another step along that way. And so I think we should accept the amendment,” he said.