Mayoral Column 19 May 2014

Published on 19 May 2014

CAPTION for picture: Pictured at the handover of the new mower at Pyramid Hill last week were, from left, Loddon Shire Mayor Cr Gavan Holt, recreation reserve committee vice-president Lorraine Dingwall, John Carroll, committeeman Arthur Young, Geoff Hampson (representing wife Colleen, from the netball club) and young netballer Olivia Hampson.

Budget cuts a blow for councils

Last week’s federal Budget has certainly been a huge talking point around the nation in the days since, with funding cuts and extra charges biting deep into health, education, our public broadcasters, foreign aid, indigenous programs and many more.

Of course, there were also a few winners, defence, construction companies, medical research and small-to-medium businesses among them.

Almost lost in the shouting, though, was the news that local councils around Australia are facing cuts of nearly $1 billion over the next four years.

The Municipal Association of Victoria has come out quickly with the calculation that this represents a $134 million funding blow to the state’s councils, with rural and regional communities to be the hardest hit.

The impact of the Budget on the operations of Loddon Shire will take a little time to digest and I’ll have more to say on this in the near future.

In the meantime, Council CEO John McLinden and I have been meeting with fellow local government leaders and MPs from both sides of politics to clarify our expectations and press our point of view.

One bright spot, however, was the confirmation that Roads to Recovery funding would continue until 2019.

Across Victoria, Roads to Recovery provides more than $70 million a year to help councils maintain and upgrade 85 per cent of the state’s entire road network.

Survey results pleasing

Council’s Community Care Department has received a pat on the back for the quality of its work, following a survey of service users.

The Shire conducts such a survey each year in an effort to determine how people feel about the overall program and how it could improve.

Reporting to the latest Council meeting in Serpentine, Director Community Wellbeing Wendy Gladman said 150 survey forms were distributed randomly to current service users at the end of last year.

“Of those, 52 forms were returned,” she said.

“While a response of 50 is above average for this type of exercise, previous years have seen returns in the mid-seventies, so we’re working with a smaller than usual sample this year.

“All respondents agreed the services offered improve daily life and provide adequate support for them to remain living independently.

“More than 90% of respondents expressed their satisfaction in such vital areas as community care workers arriving and leaving on time, their positive attitudes and professional approach, the courtesy of office staff and assessment officers and the approval of Council’s work by their families.

“One helpful piece of feedback was the comment from some that they felt they didn’t receive enough information on how to contact an advocate and what to do if they had concerns or complaints.

“The department has responded to this by offering more guidance on both these issues.

“We’ve also introduced an Opportunity for Improvement form, which will allow service users to provide feedback at any time.”

Gift is ‘fabulous’

Pyramid Hill recreation reserve has become the second community facility to benefit from a policy approved by Loddon Shire Council last October, under which six major recreation reserves around the Shire will get new oval mowers over the next three years.

I was on hand last week to officially present the keys for the new machine – a Kubota F3690 out-front mower, valued at $34,950.

The Calivil recreation reserve committee was the first to receive a mower under the policy, with that handover taking place in February.

Grants of up to $35,000 have been offered to reserve committees, with the idea of generating cost savings for local communities and easing the burden on volunteer labour.

Pyramid Hill committee president David James said Council’s gift had made a huge difference.

“Prior to that, we had a small tractor and slasher, but the equipment was past it – slow and prone to break down,” he said.

“The Kubota does a fabulous job, enabling us to mow the reserve in a little over an hour compared with two-and-a-half hours on the old tractor.

“We’re very happy – you just can’t compare the performance of the two machines.

“The other positive is that it’s now no big chore to get someone to volunteer for the job.” 

Volunteers thanked

National Volunteer Week ended yesterday, saluting the more than six million Australians who donate an average 56 hours a year each to help others.

The number of people volunteering their time nation-wide has doubled since 1995 – most noticeably among young people.

Here in Loddon, Census figures show that 34% of our population are active as volunteers in their communities, compared with a total of 23% in regional Victoria generally.

On top of that, 13% of Shire residents are providing unpaid care to others.

Council is always most appreciative of the efforts our volunteers make to support their communities and welcome visitors.

Last week, Council hosted two functions, in Boort and Pyramid Hill, to thank its Meals on Wheels helpers and one more the following day for volunteers at the Loddon Visitor Information Centre in Wedderburn.

New group at Dingee

Parents of three-year-olds living in or near Dingee are invited to enrol their children in a new Council-run preschool group beginning on Tuesday 15 July, running from 10am to12.30pm.

Enrolment forms are available through www.loddon.vic.gov.au, Council offices in Serpentine and Wedderburn, by phone on 5437 7999 or by visiting the kindergarten at 785 Dingee Rd.

Fees are $150 a term. For more information, please contact Council’s Early Years Co-ordinator, Alycia O’Sullivan, on 5437 7999.