No backtracking on cuts

AS shadow minister she slammed the Barnett government for “mean-spirited” cutbacks to childcare and neighbourhood centres, but now she’s the responsible minister Simone McGurk is refusing to reverse the decision.

Late last year the Liberals ordered the Department of Local Government and Communities to stop rental assistance to centres across the state, causing a number of them to fear for their futures, including the Fremantle Early Learning Centre in Beaconsfield.

“These centres…are fantastic local assets that are facing the axe because the Liberal government has ruined the state’s finances,” Ms McGurk steamed.

“The funding needed to keep the centres open is small compared to the bill taxpayers are having to foot for the Liberals’ waste and mismanagement.”

• Simone McGurk with Fremantle Early Learning Centre chair Danielle Loizou last year, when Barnett government cutbacks were “mean-spirited”.

But following Linkwest’s recent call for the decision to be reversed and a restructure of the sector to be delayed, Ms McGurk says there’s little she can do.

“The only way to reverse that decision would be to take money from other local projects, which we’re not prepared to do,” Ms McGurk told the Herald this week.

“We do recognise this has been stressful for some centres and we’re working closely with them to support the transfer of ownership and leases and give them as much certainty as we can.

“What I am doing is ensuring that there are support measures in place to assist centres with their accommodation and the tendering process.”

The latter refers to a decision to merge several community programs into one $9.4 pool and put it out to tender for the first time.

Linkwest says that will disadvantage community centres who’ll have to complete against big, slick non-profit and private organisations, but Ms McGurk says it’s a plus for community groups.

“This gives those community groups, previously shut out of the process, the opportunity to be part of the program,” the minister said.

The changes affect the South Lake Ottey Centre, which worries Jennifer Jones, a participant who credits it with saving her life.

“As an active centre participant the activities, social interaction and the acceptance of staff have enriched my life beyond recognition,” Ms Jones told the Herald.”

by STEVE GRANT

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