Parents and carers, plus staff who work at the under-threat Far West Family Day Care, are being urged to turn up in force at this month’s city council meeting to put pressure on councillors to keep the centre open.
Broken Hill City Council (BHCC), led by Mayor Tom Kennedy, decided to discuss the fate of the centre in a confidential session at last month’s full council meeting where councillors voted not to provide funding towards the centre.
No public discussion was held on its future – a decision criticised by councillor Ron Page, who is calling for the public action.
The Day Centre on Oxide St looks after 142 children from 111 local families but somewhat bizarrely it has been funded by Cobar Shire Council for three years after BHCC refused to help fund it.
But the council from Away has now given notice and asked BHCC to take responsibility for its own day care centre – they’ve been asking BHCC to take action for some seven months.
Just after the decision not to fund the centre, Mayor Kennedy said in a statement, “The reality is our local Council simply doesn’t have the background or expertise in relation to operating a childcare service”.
Cobar Shire Council has no more ‘background or expertise in relation to operating a childcare centre’ either, but they have been successfully keeping FDC afloat for years.
Cllr Page, who admits he was one of the councillors to vote against funding for the Centre, told the Truth once he’d been down to the centre on a site visit – sometime after the vote – he’d changed his mind and he urged other councillors to do the same.
“It’s negative decision,” said Cllr Page of the decision not to help fund the centre to stay on its feet, and he issued the call to action, urging the community to get along to the August Council meeting, where he plans to lobby his fellow councillors to visit the centre and reverse their decision.
Cllr Page also says the decision to discuss the issue behind closed doors in a confidential session was not acceptable. He says it is an issue that should be debated in the open.
“Local government [NSW Office of Local Government] have made it clear on many occasions not to put a lot of things under confidential that the public should know about. The ratepayers own the council and the ratepayers, if you do everything under confidential, they are being kept in the dark. I don’t believe that is the way it should be done.”
The state run OLG has several functions including ensuring the, ‘transparency and accountability of the local government sector’.
Cllr Page says it’s not just about parents losing places for their children, the closure – if it happens – would also have an impact on local businesses.
“I went and did a bit of a survey,” said the councillor, “and some of the business owners I spoke to told me; ‘Ron, without that service, we wouldn’t have a workforce to run our business’.
“Council needs to fully understand what the service does and what it means for the future of business in Broken Hill and the community if it goes away,” he said.
Cllr Page said if people do turn up at the council meeting, “it will motivate councillors and management and highlight how important this service is to the community,” he told the Truth.
“Every person that works for Far West Family Day Care, supplies the service, and the Broken Hill community, come to the council meeting, and see what’s going on.
“It is such a vital service. I am so impressed with Far West Family Day Care, and I hope council can go a long way to building a relationship with them.”
The council meeting begins at 6.30pm on August 30 in the Council Chambers. If you wish to speak at the meeting, you must register at least 15 minutes before the meeting and you can do so at this link: https://au.openforms.com/Form/86acf656-a968-4d7c-845a-cfb6d0f871c9