Council knocks back GEST reimbursement motion


Latrobe City Council has rejected a motion to reimburse Gippsland Employment Skills and Training after being kicked out of the Moe Service Centre at short notice in July.
Latrobe City councillor Dale Harriman had put forward a motion asking council to cover up to $5000 a year for the next two years for the difference in a lease agreement and $2000 in relocation costs.
“I think it would show this council has an understanding and some compassion about what it’s done to a volunteer and not-for-profit group that’s operated for a number of years for the benefit of Latrobe City and its residents,” Cr Harriman said.
“I think this is the least we can do.”
GEST was a lead tenant in the former Moe Service Centre and Library under a Moe Community Groups Hub trial that began in 2017.
The registered training organisation paid an annual peppercorn rent of $79.50, saving about $220,000 in commercial rent costs.
Its lease with Latrobe City had expired in 2019 and was transferred to a month by month arrangement.
But Latrobe City left the group potentially homeless when told council had found another yet-to-be- disclosed long term tenant for the site – in a decision council had made behind closed doors.
GEST was able to relocate to Hoyle Street in Morwell as short notice with the help of the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council.
Cr Harriman pointed to the vital service the organisation provided to those facing multiple barriers to employment as well as local workers impacted by the closure of large employers.
He also outlined the fact GEST was operating the Community Groups Hub as a service to a number of other groups in Moe.
“They put so much back into the community, it’s only fair we make this gesture because it’s nowhere near the costs incurred,” Cr Harriman said.
“I think this is the lease we can do considering it was the actions of council that cost them so much.”
Cr Graeme Middlemiss said instead, GEST should investigate applying for a minor capital grants fund to cover the group’s relocation costs
Cr Middlemiss acknowledged that Latrobe City had handled the matter “a little clumsily and a little short”.
“We had an offer for the use of the building which will benefit Moe much more than GEST were doing, this is not a reflection on GEST,” he said.
“We handled it clumsily but we handled it for the benefit of Moe.”