Missing liberal MPs leave Newcastle and Charlestown in the lurch in race for grant funds

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NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson has accused the Liberal Party of leaving the people of Newcastle and Charlestown in the lurch over the State Government’s Community Building Partnership program – with no local MP in place meaning that $700,000 in vital funding to the two electorates is likely to be delayed. 

Covering every electorate in NSW, the popular program – introduced by Labor – offers grants to charities, churches, sports clubs and many other community organisations to help them upgrade their facilities.

Groups contest for a share of $400,000 funding in Newcastle and $300,000 in Charlestown – and as per the project guidelines, sitting MPs play a crucial role in the assessment process. Last year’s grant recipients included Hunter Surf Life Saving, St John’s Ambulance, the Kotara Junior Rugby League Football Club and Newcastle Meals on Wheels.

Yesterday Mr Robertson wrote to the Premier (see letter attached) seeking an urgent assurance that the new MPs elected on October 25 will help assess where this year's money is headed – and that decisions will not be made by a bureaucrat in Sydney in the meantime.

Mr Robertson also demanded that successful applicants in Newcastle and Charlestown be notified and funds for the program disbursed on schedule in December. However, the Premier – apparently only notified of the issue by the Labor Opposition's letter – is refusing to rule out delays.

“Community Building Partnerships is one of the most popular local grant programs in the nation – providing organisations with the extra funds they need to build facilities and perform vital work,” Mr Robertson said.

“The August 25 to October 1 period is crucial. It is the assessment phase for grant applications – a time when local MPs should be actively consulting with their communities and deciding which local needs to prioritise.

“Residents in Newcastle and Charlestown have been left in the lurch since the resignations of Tim Owen and Andrew Cornwell on August 12.

“These electorates are being penalised because there is no sitting MP to seek community input.

"The Baird Government must rule out any delay in the announcement of successful projects. Community groups in Newcastle and Charlestown shouldn't have to wait for funding because of the Liberal Party's disarray."

Labor Candidate for Charlestown Jodie Harrison said: “Organisations in our region have applied for grants in good faith – and any delay is unacceptable. They must be notified on schedule in December so they can plan for the future with certainty."

Labor Candidate for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp added: “This is the price Newcastle pays for the Baird Government’s chaos. Right now an active MP would be conducting surveys to gauge public preferences. They’d be hosting public forums and street stalls. Instead the Newcastle electorate is in a holding pattern."

"It’s disappointing that Labor had to bring this issue to the Premier’s attention because the Government is in such disarray they missed it."

More information about the Community Building Partnership program can be accessed at:

http://www.communitybuildingpartnership.nsw.gov.au 

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