The Joint TUS of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, which is comprised of NIPSA, GMB and UNITE, received extremely concerning last minute information that, instead of supporting an in-house operating model for the 2 new leisure centres at South Lakes in Craigavon and Armagh, which the SMT had led us to firmly believe would be the recommendation the officers would make to Councillors for approval this month, a presentation was made to Councillors which presented financial potential headline savings figures on 3 options that are highly likely to influence key decision makers to end Council run in-house leisure services across the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, potentially in favour of outsourcing. The Joint TUS has challenged these figures and sought immediate full disclosure of any supporting evidence as well as formally seeking speaking rights at all related Council meetings, which has not yet been approved. We believe that the information presented to the Councillors is grossly misleading and does not accurately reflect the unions' or other employers' experiences to date of outsourcing or arms length company type models to deliver leisure services to rate payers across a number of other Council areas which have seen previous decisions to outsource rescinded and key public services brought back under direct Council control due to significant problems encountered affecting staff, service delivery and escalating costs.
The refusal of the officers of the Council to recommend the continuation of in-house leisure services to Councillors, despite close working with the unions for the past 2 years towards a transformed Council run in-house model, demonstrates an unacceptable abdication of responsibility and leadership, turning this key decision on how public monies are to be spent into a local Government political football with a final decision which could be based on extremely challengeable and unrealistic cost savings assumptions.
This is another fundamental issue which strikes the very heart of our Public Services Defence Campaign. The Joint TUS therefore would warmly welcome support for this important protest from NIC-ICTU, Trades Councils, all trade unionists, concerned rate payers and all other interested parties.
The Leisure Committee will be taking the decision at this meeting on which service delivery model will be recommended for full Council approval this month. Monday's protest must demonstrate the strength of support for members tasked with spending rate payers' hard earned money.
PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO ATTEND THIS PROTEST AGAINST A SERIOUS THREAT OF PRIVATISATION OF LEISURE SERVICES.
Alison Millar Kim Graham
General Secretary JTUS Secretary on behalf of NIPSA, GMB & UNITE