Leisure centre shake-up deferred

Published Tuesday, 04 March 2014
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Belfast City Council has deferred a decision on the future management of its leisure centres for six weeks following its monthly meeting on Monday.

Leisure centre shake-up deferred
Unions protested outside the council. (© UTV)

At the February meeting of the Strategic Policy and Resources committee, councillors voted to transfer the management of the 10 centres into an arms length, not-for-profit trust.

That decision, which Sinn Féin opposed, was due to be ratified in the March meeting.

However, councillor Jim McVeigh proposed the decision be deferred to allow consultants and unions to work on an alternative which would see management of the centres retained by the council.

The Sinn Féin member told the chamber: "We believe public assets should not only be owned by the public, but also managed by public servants."

Unions, who protested outside the meeting, have raised concerns that the new management model could lead to job losses.

Cllr McVeigh added: "Some individuals and organisations are trying to stir up unnecessary fears among our staff and across the general public about the impact and significance of this proposal.

"There will be no job losses. We are not only not talking about closing facilities, but investing in them and in some cases, like a proposal to build a leisure centre in Twinbrook, that would actually create jobs."

We believe that in investing this £105m, the best people to manage those facilities are our officers with the maximum amount of democratic oversight.

Jim McVeigh

During the debate in the chamber, councillors said they supported the amendment but said there should be a time frame imposed.

Councillor Lee Reynolds added: "We made a series of promises to this city, and it was made clear to us the financial commitments that would all upon us.

"It was clear that we would need to save £2m to get the capital we would need to reinvent leisure.

"We knew it was coming and now decision day has come, scampering will not do."

The DUP member went on: "We will vote for this amendment, we will endorse it.

"We endorse the social enterprise model because of what has been put in front of us and we like it. We have interrogated the evidence and feel it is the best means to reinvent leisure in this city.

"But we will give the unions this chance [to develop the in-house model] in good faith and the resources to allow them to do it.

"It will be very difficult for any alternative proposal to come forward to maintain the level of quantity and quality of services this city deserves.

"Good luck to the unions, I wish them well, but I would emphasise there has to be a short period of time and I think a month is appropriate.

"The one thing that we have to give our staff as much as possible and as soon as possible is clarity."

Councillor McVeigh, however, ruled out imposing a deadline on his amendment and the motion was defeated following a vote.

Strategic Policy and Resources committee chair, Gavin Robinson proposed an identical amendment with an added six week timescale.

The DUP member's motion was passed.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Mr x in belfast wrote (334 days ago):
Close them all down, they are a waste of rates payers money. The centres are mostly old run down and very unclean. The staff are mostly overweight grumpy unhelpful so an so's. You can use a much nicer up to date cleaner friendlier facility run by a private company elsewhere in the city instead of these dumps the council is constantly pouring money into. Anytime I have ever used one of these centres they are mostly empty and like I said before very dirty. The staff in the centres are mostly unpleasant, unhelpful and always hanging around the places in groups doing nothing while the changing facility's are usually check covered with litter. I really don't see why the council are giving them another 10k to waste. Stop delaying an just pass them over to someone else an use our rates money better!!!
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