MEALS on wheels volunteer John McCormack has upped the ante on his opposition to Wodonga Council’s decision to dump its home care service.
He has asked Victorian Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell to help convince the council not to switch to a private operator for the continuation of the service.
As community opposition grows, Mr McCormack said he hoped to have a response from the Minister in coming days.
“The decision was made behind closed doors,” he said.
“As the relevant minister I assume she would be appalled at the abrogation of such an important historical obligation to those in need in the Wodonga community.
“To boot 70 council employees are going to lose their jobs.
“There was no public consultation whatsoever for a very good reason.
“If there had been, there would have been such an outcry that the proposal would have died there and then.”
Mr McCormack said the savings to council of $825,000 represented less than 2.5 per cent of the council’s budget.
“It is a drop in the ocean,” he said.
“To add insult to injury, our mayor proudly proclaims this course is a first for Victoria.”
Mr McCormack has urged community members to lobby councillors to reverse their decision and feared those facing job losses were too scared to speak out.
Wodonga councillor Anna Speedie broke her silence on the issue and confirmed she supported the private sector taking over the service.
It was first discussed in 2005.
“There are private sector providers, who in my opinion, can and will do a better job than council,” she said.
“It is their core business.
“They have got more opportunity to focus on just that one service delivery.”
Cr Speedie acknowledged the service users were a vulnerable section of the community and every attempt was being made to reassure them the changeover would be smooth.
“It will go as seamlessly as we can possibly make it,” she said.
“There is always going to be some anxiety around change.
“Given the age demographic of most of this clientele of course there is going to be more nervousness.
“But I absolutely believe this will be done the right way.”
She said some employees could retire but hoped volunteers would remain after the changeover.
“Most or if not all of the workers will be re-hired by the new provider,” she said.
“The reality is volunteers do it because they care about the people.”