By CASEY NEILL
TWO parties and $1000 have sparked heated debate between Greater Dandenong councillors.
Councillor Maria Sampey boosted Community Response Grants to two groups at the Monday 22 February council meeting, her motion passing seven votes to four.
She issued a feisty retort to Cr Angela Long after she voiced her disappointment following the decision.
“She’s quibbling over $500. You’re a joke,” Cr Sampey said.
Councillors were to allocate $480 to the Greek Community of Springvale and Districts for a Christmas party and excursion, and $310 to the Macedonian Senior Citizens Group of the City of Greater Dandenong for an International Women’s Day celebration.
Cr Sampey moved that each instead receive the amount they applied for – $1000 and $850 respectively.
“The way the system’s being organised, it really isn’t working,” she said.
“We’ve got a lot of money in the community grants.
“A group has to make two or three or four applications before getting what they wanted in the first place.
“I know you’re not going to agree with me. It doesn’t bother me.
“I think the system’s wrong.”
Cr Sean O’Reilly said council officers recommended appropriate fund allocations and sought councillor feedback via email before bringing a final report to a council meeting.
“To change this recommendation without appropriate time to consider the merits of the allocation of these funds is not the level of diligent and thorough decision-making that the community expects when allocating ratepayers’ money,” he said after the meeting.
“The additional money that was granted at Monday night’s meeting mean that other community groups will miss out, unless council makes a subsequent decision to increase the yearly community funds allocation.”
Cr Peter Brown said the system wasn’t wrong but there was room for improvement and the council should be more generous to the two projects in question.
Cr Roz Blades said all councillors had agreed to the grant policy, which was designed to make the process more open.
Cr Angela Long said Cr Sampey already had the opportunity to influence the grant figures, and that the council had a set amount of money to allocate over 12 months.
“People applying late in the year will miss out altogether,” she said.
“We should stick with the policy.”
Cr Jim Memeti supported Cr Sampey’s motion.
“We either support them in full or don’t support them,” he said.
“There’s nothing wrong with our policy but in this instance I do support these groups.”