Unions Unite Against Possible Privatisation of New Leisure Centre

NIPSA, together with our sister trade unions, Unite and GMB, have been working closely with the Senior Management Team of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council for over a year on the future service delivery model for the new Leisure Centre

currently under construction at the Craigavon Lakes Park to ensure that the Council continues to provide its citizens with first class publicly run leisure services paid for by public money. The Joint Trade Union Side was therefore delighted when the CEO confirmed that, of the three options being scrutinised, the preferred option which the Senior Management Team would be recommending to Councillors was based upon a transformed modern leisure service developed and provided by Council employees, as is currently the case.

However, NIPSA learned late last week that at a recent Committee meeting, some Councillors were calling for the new leisure services to be privatised, contrary to the SMT and Consultancy review report recommendations based upon a headline savings figure which appeared to be slightly cheaper than the in house model being recommended. We believe that this would be a major error, based upon the empirical evidence available from other Councils in N.I. who have either considered and rejected or brought back in house previously outsourced modern leisure centres. The trade unions firmly beleive that, if outsourcing is approved, it would prove much more costly to the Council and it's citizens in more than just financial terms. Furthermore, the Council would no longer be in full control of the development of the new leisure offering for the duration of what tends to be lengthy contract periods with additional costs mounting as changes are required. This, NIPSA and our sister unions believe, would not be in the short, medium or long term best interests of either this crucial public service the Council provides or the health and well being of its ratepayers who are eager to enjoy the new leisure offering due to open next year. It would also be a gamble which will likely not prove to be the best use of ratepayers' money at a time when public sector funding is increasingly stretched.

We are therefore holding an anti-privatisation protest before the full Council meeting at Craigavon Civic Centre this evening, alongside our fellow Save our City Lakes Campaigners, to urge Councillors to fully consider the real costs that outsourcing would bring versus the many benefits of retaining this vital pubilc service under full Council control with the dedicated team of leisure employees who wish to work towards ensuring that the new leisure centre facilities will bring both improved health and wealth benefits to the community the Council serves for decades to come.