BAYSWATER councillors have opted not to cut back on free pre-meeting dinners in order to fund subsidised podiatry treatments for seniors.
In July a divided council narrowly approved a budget sprinkled with contentious moneysaving cuts like axing a $120,000 childhood immunisation clinic, while $20,000 was also saved by cutting funding to subsidised podiatry services at the Bayswater and Morley community centres.
The podiatry sessions were free for seniors, adults 50 and over, and disability or health care card holders, as the council funding covered a $15 gap above the Medicare rebate.
Cr Dan Bull, who voted against the budget, has now pored over it and reckons cutting $18,000 from the council’s $125,000 yearly catering bill, and snipping $2,000 off the $33,000 reserved for councillors to attend conferences and training, would allow the podiatry rebate to be reinstated.
Cr Bull said there was a lot of talk about returning to “core services” during the budget debates, from those who wanted to save money.
“What isn’t a core service? Our dinners,” he said this week.
“This service is something that has supported our older community. This service helps to improve older peoples’ quality of life … and most particularly those who can’t afford private, and those who can’t access bulk billing services which have been diminishing since the Medicare rebate freeze.”
Cr Bull also sought to redirect money earmarked for upcoming road resurfacing to restore the free immunisation clinics, but the majority opposed both his motions.
Mayor Filomena Piffaretti said the time and place to debate the funding was during the budget talks.
“There was a budget process over four months, including five workshops. That process put together a complete budget for the whole of the City of Bayswater … it’s disappointing to see Notices of Motion now coming back only one month later pulling out individual items within our budget trying to unpick the budget line by line.”
Cr Bull said: “I would utterly disagree that the budget process is the appropriate process to deal with cutting a social service such as this”, given those budget talks were in secret and no community consultation was carried out before the cuts were made.
The clinic funding was cut so swiftly staff only found out the same week it ended, and still had up to six months’ worth of bookings.
by DAVID BELL