MacTiernan says all CRCs will still get funding

The McGowan Government says it wants CRCs to focus on government, health and community information and services.

IN what the McGowan Government has called a move to ensure sustainable funding for community resource centres such as the one operating in Gingin the Opposition says will destroy them.

Opposition Regional Development spokesman Jim Chown said community resource centres (CRCs) were being advised they were either tier 1 or tier 2 organisations, the strict criteria they had to now meet and that they would receive a reduced yearly allocation of either $70,000 or $50,000 respectively.

Mr Chown said the centres were expected to operate for a year on the funding supplied but with all that was required of them the state government was rendering them unsustainable.

“The government is setting these centres up for failure,’’ he said.

“The funding cuts will mean access to essential services such as suicide prevention, child protection and domestic violence support may no longer be delivered.”

But Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said CRC funding had blown out under the Barnett government.

Ms MacTiernan said the total CRC operational cost of $5.9 million in 2009-10 had ballooned to $13m five years later.

“We were elected to bring the finances back in order and our out-year allocation of $8m represents what would have been the normal trajectory of growth,’’ she said.

“There is no intention to close the program or to stop the funding of CRCs – we have allocated $42m across the forward estimates for the CRC program.

“This funding proposal recognises the valuable services CRCs provide, particularly in small regional communities, while also seeking to bring more equity to the system and a more sustainable funding level over the long term.”

But Mr Chown said the more centres that could not meet the criteria being set by the government, the fewer the government would be required to fund, the more the government would save.

He said the government was targeting savings of 40 per cent from a CRCs previous funding, but with the allocation to individual centres and the requirements being placed on them, it appeared the government was seeking to accrue greater savings by forcing more centres to close.

“CRCs provide access to health, welfare and education services for thousands of vulnerable people in regional towns but the McGowan Government is ignoring this valuable support in order to find money to pork barrel Labor electorates,” he said.

“In many instances, these centres are the only way some people can access government services in their community.’’

Ms MacTiernan said the government had written to all CRCs, seeking feedback on a recommended future funding approach at a more sustainable level.

She said under the recommended approach, the majority of CRCs would be offered $70,000 a year.

Some CRCs would be offered $50,000 a year where they were located either in a bigger community – a population of more than 3000 people or in close proximity to another CRC or a major regional centre – less than 30km.

“Under the proposal, all centres will continue to receive funding from the state government,’’ she said.

The funding proposal is part of a review of the CRC program by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

She said the funding approach recognised that where CRCs were operating in bigger regional towns or in close proximity to a regional centre, there were other service provider options available to the community.

It also recognised opportunities for resource sharing between CRCs in close proximity to each other.

“It is proposed that CRCs focus primarily on the delivery and facilitation of government, health and community information and services.

“CRCs would also have reduced reporting obligations and greater flexibility on opening hours.

“A greater emphasis will be placed on the use of video conferencing technology to improve the delivery of services, and to better connect Government to regional and remote Western Australia.’’