Inner West Council has moved to support a program that will provide financial assistance totalling $250,000 to local organisations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Council resolved in an August meeting to receive a report addressing how up to $250,000 can be targeted to those most in need throughout the Inner West community. This was in addition to the $50,000 allocated to Addison Road Community Centre and the Bills Crews Exodus Foundation at the same meeting, to support the increased demand for food insecurity among families in the Inner West.
“This is a very good and effective way for us to be able to ensure that the most vulnerable people in our community are being directly assisted to get through this lockdown,” Councillor Darcy Byrne, who tabled the motion, said at the September 14 council meeting.
The funding will largely be derived from savings during lockdown, whereby utility costs from many Council-run facilities have been slashed. $90,000 will be sourced from library closures, $120,000 from the closure of aquatic centres and $20,000 from reduced cleaning costs at community centres. The remaining $20,000 will be identified in the next quarterly budget review.
Cr Byrne also wished for council to maintain funding for Living Arts EDGE Events, the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus, the Yabun Festival and “safety precautions that may have to be taken on New Year’s Eve.”
“I don’t think we should get in the practice of assuming that there will be no events taking place in December, January [and] February,” Cr Byrne said.
“We should be doing everything possible to prepare for the eventuality that there are COVID safe events that can take place because that’s what the community desperately wants.”
Council projections reveal that New Year’s Eve, Living Arts EDGE Events, the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus and the Yabun Festival costs $138,000 per year.
Councillor Tom Kiat, who seconded the motion, believed that the motion was the most streamlined approach to helping the community.
“The [council] officers have done a quick and good job in identifying the community organisations that are doing this work,” Cr Kiat said.
“I was concerned about the issues raised in this report around what is the best way that we can support those who are really struggling through lockdown, and I think the council officers have identified that this is the best way we can do that, this is the best bang for our buck, it’s the most targeted and most effective way of supporting our community, so I’m glad we’re moving in this direction.”
Cr Kiat proposed to amend the motion to include noting the “important contribution” of Aboriginal non-profit Deadly Connections to the Inner West and “continue discussions with Deadly Connections regarding finding suitable permanent accommodation within the LGA.”
The amendment was incorporated into the motion by Cr Byrne, who recognised that community organisations such as Deadly Connections should be “at the very top of the list for properties that do become available” in the Inner West.
Councillor Julie Passas wished for further research to be done on the proposal.
“We have vulnerable people in our area that need support. It’s not our money, it’s ratepayer’s money,” Cr Passas said.
“We can’t just put our hands up and vote for a quarter of a million dollars when we do not know if it’s getting to the people it needs to.”
Cr Passas requested an amendment detailing a full report on “all organisations that have requested funding from Council.” This was seconded by Councillor Victor Macri and was incorporated into Cr Byrne’s primary motion.
Cr Macri attempted to move an amendment requesting that council receives a report on their involvement with sporting clubs and hirers, after the lockdowns this year forced many leagues and associations to abandon their seasons. Cr Macri drew a comparison to the neighbouring Canterbury Bankstown Council, who waived the fees for this year and credited for the next year, asking “if that’s a possibility for council to look at that.”
While in support of a report, Cr Porteous disputed the direct relevance of the proposed amendment to the motion and sought advice from the governance official Peter Doyle, who agreed with the mayor, saying “it’s not really associated with the report that is before [Councillors].” Mr Doyle suggested that Cr Macri’s proposed amendment should be submitted as a notice of motion for the next meeting. It was subsequently ruled out of order as it did not relate to the subject matter, and was not incorporated into the primary motion.
Ten local community organisations were recommended for COVID-19 support, and include the Asylum Seekers Centre, Deadly Connections and the Sanctuary House Women’s Shelter.
Last year, Council provided $250,000 in financial assistance to ten different community organisations. The funding supported the delivery of between 2,000 to 7,000 food hampers per week across the Inner West, provided more than 4,000 asylum seekers with support, provided daily food and support for 300 homeless people and boarding house residents and among other causes, provided legal and health support for 54 women escaping domestic violence.
Those experiencing acute additional disadvantages during the current COVID-19 lockdown include Aboriginal people and communities, asylum seekers and emerging communities, carers, migrant and refugee communities, people experiencing domestic and family violence, people with disabilities and people with lower digital literacy and other barriers to accessing information.