The future for 75 staff and volunteers is uncertain after Bendigo’s council announced plans to take over operations at an RSPCA animal care centre.
The City of Greater Bendigo plans to take over the East Bendigo facility after learning the RSPCA wanted to charge it more to run the service.
Fourteen RSPCA staff have been told they will not directly transition into the new council team and will need to apply for new positions.
The council is also still to determine what role volunteers will play. A decision on the 61 volunteers will be made during transition planning with the RSPCA.
July will mark the first time in over 20 years that the council has directly run pound and animal services and on Tuesday safe and healthy environments manager Caroline Grylls said it expected “significant” set-up costs for compliance, accommodation and staff recruitment.
Over time, however, she believed it would be cheaper to run the service in-house than to cop fee rises the RSPCA flagged during recent contract renewal negotiations.
It was not yet clear how much money could be saved, Ms Grylls said on Tuesday, but comparisons with other councils suggested not renewing the contract was the most cost-effective option.
The Bendigo Animal Care Centre had been running at a loss, RSPCA Tegan McPherson said.
“Over the past few years, RSPCA Victoria has been carefully analysing every council pound contract we operate, and ensuring our fee structure reflects the true cost of caring for animals admitted from each municipality and shire,” she said.
The examinations came as the RSPCA pushed to make every council pound contracts cost-neutral, rather than “subsidise” statutory responsibilities, Ms McPherson said.
“We will continue to work with stakeholders across Victoria to collaborate on animal welfare programs and share our expertise, and ensure we use our finite resources wisely so that we’re able to prevent and address cruelty in as many communities as possible – not just those in which we run animal care centres,” she said.
Staff in Bendigo would be supported through the transition, Ms McPherson said.
“We are mindful that this is a difficult time for local staff members and volunteers,” she said.
Those staff members unable to secure a new job could be redeployed in another part of the organisation, where appropriate, Ms McPherson said.
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