The City of Ballarat will try to balance its books by employing far fewer agency staff than previously, the newly released draft budget shows.
In the document, released this week for consultation with residents, forecast payments to agency staff are down by 90 per cent year on year - a reduction of $1.36 million in total.
The City of Ballarat is making savings through using less agency staff. We are also reviewing how we are delivering services and will implement appropriate changesGlenn Kallio, City of Ballarat director of business services
There also looks set to be fewer contract staff - those employed directly by the council on short term contracts - on the books. Figures listed under materials and services in the illustrate around $283,000 less for contract staff under the new budget for the next financial year.
In a statement, the City of Ballarat's director of business services Glenn Kallio said: "The City of Ballarat is making savings through using less agency staff.
"We are also reviewing how we are delivering services and will implement appropriate changes.
"This will not be reflected in one account in the draft 2020/21 budget."
Agency staff - ie those working for council but on the payroll of employment agencies - were among the first casualties of the strict new lockdown measures introduced by council in March.
The draft budget also outlines funding for around 25 full time equivalent casual staff in the whole organisation, with more than half earmarked for the development and planning business unit.
The number of people represented by that figure would be much higher, with many on limited hours at places like the Ballarat Aquatic and Leisure Centre.
In the weeks after the City of Ballarat introduced its shutdown measures, the CEO Justine Linley confirmed that 203 casual staff had been stood down shortly after the physical distancing measures were put in place.
She said last month the decision "was not taken lightly" and that staff would remain on the books and be welcome to return once restrictions were lifted.
The Courier understands that once restrictions are lifted, many of the municipality's casual staff will return to work.
However, if the budget proceeds as planned, few agency staff working for council are likely to return to their previous roles.
There remains an ongoing controversy over whether they should be eligible for the JobKeeper benefit, which can be up to almost $250 a week more than the current JobSeeker allowance.
Currently council staff are not eligible for JobSeeker payments, despite lobbying from councils to Federal politicians, who introduced the scheme to help employers keep staff on during the economic downturn.
The changes in funding to council's materials and services highlight some of the ways the City of Ballarat's finance department is trying to cut costs as it contends with a proposed rate freeze and income that has been significantly reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The amount spent on the permanent workforce would remain steady under the current draft budget, with non-permanent staff likely to bear the brunt of cuts.
Last week, councillors agreed to release the budget to the public. Headline figures included an additional $17 million in total borrowing.
- You can read the draft budget at https://www.ballarat.vic.gov.au/city/about-us/budget\
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