Council accused of using outside trades

By Jackson Russell

Mitchell Shire Council has come under fire for allegedly using tradespeople from other areas through the Working for Victoria program, rather than hiring those within the shire.

The Working for Victoria program has been introduced across the state to help eople who have lost work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Mitchell Shire trades business, which wished to remain anonymous, told the North Central Review council had been using trades workers from Melbourne through the program.

Council received $3.8 million from the State Government to support 74 full-time roles and one part-time to help business and community recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

The roles included administration, health care, community support and services, maintenance, and cleaning.

Of the roles, eight tradespeople have been employed by council under the scheme for six-month terms.

A representative of the trades business said local trades were also affected by the pandemic.

“They have no work locally nor can they travel to Melbourne to work on sites as they are impacted by stage-four lockdown rules,” they said.

“Why can’t [council] look after local trades instead of sourcing outside our area? Especially when the scheme is supposed to support local jobs first.”

When questioned by the Review, council did not confirm nor deny the employment of tradespeople from Melbourne through the Working for Victoria program.

Chief executive Brett Luxford said the employment of eight tradespeople through the program had allowed council to undertake a range of additional maintenance projects that would assist in the health and safety of the community.

“Importantly the roles have assisted council and its contractors to make strong inroads into our maintenance program,” he said.

“With council pushing ahead with its 2020-21 capital works program despite the challenges associated with COVID-19, our capital funding will be targeted at new, renewal, upgrade and expansion projects including buildings, plant and equipment, roads, footpaths and cycleways, bridges, recreation, leisure and community facilities, waste management, parks, open space and streetscapes.

“These works will need the support of contractors to deliver and we encourage our local tradies to participate in tender and quotation opportunities.”

The State Government was approached for comment but did not respond before deadline.