UPSET State Emergency Service members are set to “fight to their very last breath” to see a Towong Council funding cut reversed.
Volunteers from Tallangatta, Corryong and Mitta units met on Thursday night to draw up tactics to fight the shire’s move to end its annual contribution of $32,340.
The council has made the decision as part of a draft budget adopted on Tuesday.
In response, a petition calling on the shire to reinstate the funding will be launched on Friday and a letterbox drop to homes urging residents to express their dismay to council will be undertaken on Monday.
There are also plans to park an SES truck outside the council’s office at Tallangatta to send a message.
Corryong SES controller Pam Noonan said she was stunned at the slashing of funding which was part of $194,000 in savings being made by the council in its budget.
“It was a bit of a shock, mainly because we’re not a leisure service like a lot of the other cuts, we’re an emergency service,” Mrs Noonan said.
She stressed to colleagues the need to fight the cut.
“We’re going to fight to the very last breath to get this funding because it’s vital,” Mrs Noonan said.
The meeting heard it would take the units years to recover from the loss, with a lack of money for fuel limiting travel for training and equipment unable to be replaced.
Tallangatta SES controller Jean Blackwell conducted the meeting and blasted the council’s decision.
“What gives them the God-given right to walk away from this, they are the ones that signed this (funding) agreement,” she said.
“They’ve got to be held responsible for this funding.”
Concerns were expressed at the SES often doing council’s work in removing fallen trees from roads and the shire was criticised for its slow response times.
Mrs Blackwell said her SES unit could be on the road within eight minutes of being notified of a traffic hazard on the road, while on-call council workers often took hours.
“That’s a key message we need to get to them, you need to improve your after-hours service,” she said.
Tallangatta farmer and firefighter John Kohne said there was a lack of confidence in the council and he expected strong community support for the SES’s fight.
“There’s that much anger out there I don’t think you’ll have a big job getting people on board,” Mr Kohne said. At the council’s meeting on Tuesday, councillor Debi Gadd said the Victorian government should fund 100 per cent of the SES as opposed to the existing 50:50 council-state arrangement
“I think that it is the State Government’s responsibility to fund the SES and not council,” Cr Gadd said.