The Labor Government has failed volunteer emergency services by dragging their heels on opening applications for the Emergency Service Volunteer Fuel Card Scheme.
Member for Warren-Blackwood, Terry Redman said with the fire season afoot and emergency service volunteers facing a busy holiday season, it was ludicrous that eligible Brigades, Groups and Units (BGUs) could still not apply for the cards.
When questioned in Parliament yesterday about the application delay, the Minister for Emergency Services was still unable to advise of a specific opening date.
“This is the time of year when emergency service groups such as volunteer bush fire brigades need this fuel card the most,” Mr Redman said.
“It’s very disappointing that the Government hasn’t opened applications yet, forcing our hardworking volunteers that put their own lives at risk to protect others, to personally fork out for their transport costs to and from their call-outs.”
Card values have already been halved to $1000 after the State Government’s 2017-18 Budget slashed the Royalties for Region-funded program by $3 million.
The Minister said applications for the reduced value cards were anticipated to open “during December” via the Department of Fire and Emergency Services website, and would be open for one month.
Once closed, a processing period of three weeks will occur, meaning successful applicants won’t receive funds to disburse to members until at least February.
Nationals WA spokesman for Emergency Services and former volunteer firefighter Colin de Grussa said the timing was incredibly poor.
“To open applications for only one month over the busy Christmas and New Year period is ridiculous,” he said.
“Officers-in-charge, who are required to apply for cards on behalf of their emergency service organisations, are among the busiest volunteers at an already demanding time of year.
“This is obviously a move by the State Government to discourage applications so that future reviews will indicate the program’s success is in question, allowing them to justify cutting funding altogether.”