Council called callous as safety council funds cut
The South Waikato Safer Community Council has had its funding cut by the South Waikato District Council and much loved former mayor Gordon Blake has come forward calling the move callous.
The group formed in the late 1990s was created to help police and promote safety within the community at a grassroots level.
Mr Blake told South Waikato News that given the recent events such as the brutal beating of the Gabolinscys and the shooting outside the Tokoroa police station last year, that now would be the time for the council to continue its support of the group.
‘‘Given these events one would hope that our councillors would support a group like ours. We are here to support many safety programmes within our South Waikato community, our aim and objective is to support and umbrella groups that contribute to the safety of the South Waikato community such as Cook Island Wardens. We take an active stance on domestic violence and assist the police when able to do so. We also help the night patrols in Putaruru, Tirau and Tokoroa. To say I am bitterly disappointed is an understatement.’’
Mr Blake said he was approached last year by mayor Neil Sinclair to chair the group.
‘‘ Neil had serious concerns about the finances of the group, and rightly so. Neil told me to take the group and bring the fin- ances into order and indicated that if this was done the group should continue to get funding from council, which, with the help of our committee we have done. We are sitting in a comfortable financial position at present and can maintain functioning for another 18 months.’’ Mr Blake said.
Mr Blake said communication from council had been limited.
‘‘We have asked for minutes from council where they have discussed SCC, these are minutes the public are entitled too and yet many months later we are still waiting. We are also awaiting the report from the council rep on our board, Cr Anne Edmeades. We want to know if we have done something wrong so we can address the issue. But we have been left in the dark.‘‘
In a statement the SWDC said: ‘‘Council has liaised with the Safer Community Council over several years regarding the delivery of agreed outcomes, ultimately deciding to reduce funding from $ 40,000 to $20,000. Council must ensure good accountability for funding provided and council had several performance based concerns. Early in the LTP 2012- 22 budget process, council identified the funding of $20,000 as being for initiatives to build safer communities; at the time it was not specifically designated as SCC funding. It is worth noting that during the LTP consultation process no group, includ- ing SCC, put forward applications, ideas or a desire to uplift that funding for new or existing initiatives. During LTP final deliberations Council removed this funding of $20,000 completely due to budget constraints.
Mr Blake who has championed the South Waikato community for over half a century said SCC was something he held dear to his heart.
‘‘This is something my very dear friend and former colleague, the late Bev Sturgeon started many years ago. It pains me that we are at this point, the safety of our community should be paramount. I am surprised at the way this has been handled.‘‘
Tokoroa Senior Sergeant Graeme Hill is surprised by the decision.
‘‘That’s very interesting. I am surprised about that.
‘‘I had not heard anything of that.
Safer Communities has been doing a really good job, covering all areas.’’
‘‘That is an interesting place that they ( SWDC) have got themselves in.’’
One of the groups likely to be affected by the funding cut will be the Cook Island Wardens, who are managed by the Safer Communities Council.
‘‘They do a great job in the CBD. Fortunately for us we (have) the Cook Island Wardens there.’’ ‘‘ I don’t know what they (SWDC) are putting themselves in.’’