Council wiping Bunbury senior group’s $33k debt a ‘one-off’

Shannon VerhagenBunbury Herald
City of Bunbury mayor, Gary Brennan
Camera IconCity of Bunbury mayor, Gary Brennan Credit: The Sunday Times, Daniel Wilkins

Bunbury Mayor Gary Brennan has confirmed a $33,000 payment to wipe the debt of a local community group was a “one-off,” after the council agreed to help the Bunbury-Geographe Seniors and Community Centre at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Council chambers erupted in applause when the motion was passed – despite the executive recommendation suggesting an interest-free loan – allowing the centre to start afresh in 2020.

While carried almost unanimously, Cr Jaysen Miguel said the move set a “dangerous precedent,” a statement Mr Brennan agreed with.

“The situation should never have arisen in the first place, let’s be frank about it,” Mr Brennan said. “You just don’t say, ‘oh, by the way council, we’ve got this $33,000 (debt.)’

“It was actually a $40,000 debt and they put the hat around amongst their members and they contributed $6000 and they’ve been chipping away at it.”

You don’t suddenly have a debt of that magnitude appear without somebody knowing about it … so to say we’re pleased about it – it should never have occurred in the first place.

Gary Brennan

Mr Brennan said senior citizens were an integral part of the community and the council would always look after them, but the group needed to get on top of its finances moving forward.

“In their submission to us, they said that they should be on track to end the current financial year in a positive position rather than a negative position, and that position should improve each year after,” he said.

“The fact they lost the Meals on Wheels contract, which I think is effective as of February, they won’t need to employ as many cooks, so they can make internal adjustments which will reduce their operational costs.”

Centre chairman Kelvin Carmichael said it “came to crunch time” in November when the group was asked to repay its debts to those it owed, and he was “ecstatic” to have had them wiped.

We had to go to the council and ask for emergency funding, and now that they’ve given it to us, it’s a load off our minds and we can move forward now in 2020.

Kelvin Carmichael

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