Yarriambiack Shire fears State Government budget cuts

YARRIAMBIACK chief executive Ray Campling has labelled expected State Government budget cuts as the most drastic in more than 15 years.

Council expects the government to make cuts to kindergarten, youth and emergency relief services in its 2014-15 budget.

Mr Campling said the cuts would mirror drastic cuts made by the government in 1996 and 1997.

"It will be a challenge for council," he said.

Premier Denis Napthine voiced concerns last month that programs for hospitals, homelessness and kindergartens worth almost $1 billion were at risk without federal support.

He said without continued federal money, Victoria faced an estimated budget gap of $940 million over the next four years.

Yarriambiack community services manager Gavin Blinman said there could be a reduction in kindergarten funding.

The national partnership for early childhood helps give children access to kindergarten for at least 15 hours a week.

Dr Napthine said without federal funding, services could fall to 10 hours a week.

"The Municipal Association of Victoria has made a submission on the importance of continuing the 15 hours for each child," Mr Blinman said.

"The children are benefiting from the additional hours."

He said the cuts would most affect families in Hopetoun, Woomelang and Beulah.

"Lots of families travel to bigger communities to access the extra hours," he said.

"If the 15 hours of kindergarten stops, it won't be worth these families travelling that far."

Cr Kylie Zanker said the cuts were 'ludicrous'.

Mr Blinman said the Rural Health Alliance also faced budget cuts of 20 per cent, which would affect council's youth services.

"Currently we are funded for two staff but with the funding cut, this would be cut to only one staff," he said.

Mr Blinman said further cuts could be made to emergency relief services.

He said a new Department of Social Services would take over the former Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

"Funding cuts of 20 to 30 per cent are expected in the May budget," he said.

Mr Blinman said Yarriambiack's funding for emergency relief

services would be cut from $23,000 to $16,900 a year.

"Our relief is primarily provided in the form of vouchers," he said,

"We will need to ensure we continue to refer clients to budget counselling to reduce the need for emergency relief support."

Cr Terry Grange said the cuts were a disgrace.

"These are all people who need our help," he said. "I have grave concerns about this."

Mr Blinman said while the cuts were not yet confirmed, he was confident they would happen.

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