Local residents in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council were stunned by a recent decision by the Leisure Services Sub Committee to outsource Leisure provisions across the whole Council area. NIPSA, along with other union colleagues in a united campaign, argued strongly for the service to remain in-house. NIPSA also expressed its absolute shock at the fact that local ratepayers had not even been consulted.
NIPSA Official, Paddy Mackel, commented:
“It is unbelievable that this Council could consider outsourcing these services without even seeking the views of constituents. In the Craigavon, Lurgan and Portadown area, thousands of local people use the leisure centres every week. Despite a complete lack of investment in recent years, the public have consistently recorded satisfaction rates of 90% for the services provided and for the workers delivering those services. Despite this it seems that Councillors don’t seem to consider their views are important when it comes to how their rates contributions are spent.
We have seen elsewhere that outsourcing Leisure provision does not work. It leads to higher prices, worse services and worse terms and conditions for the workers. Experience in Belfast has shown this; and in Mid Ulster, after outsourcing those leisure services a number of years ago, the Council then had to make a political decision to bring the services back in-house. Why would ABC Council ignore this clear evidence? Why would the Council ignore the local community by not seeking their views before making a final decision?”
The unions are working together, along with local leisure service users to fight this decision.
There will also be local petition sign up opportunities at the leisure centres and town centres in the coming days. A protest will be held outside the Council building, Craigavon Civic Centre on Monday 25th February at 5.30 p.m.
Finally Paddy Mackel concluded:
“Our message to the Council is simple. Keep Leisure Service Provision Public, consult the local community on their views and ensure that the high level of service provided to residents is maintained.”
“We are confident that through working with the staff, leisure service users and the wider community that this decision can be overturned. If not we put the Council on notice, we will ballot our members for industrial action. We will not facilitate the destruction of leisure services. The community of ABC Council area deserve better. Political Parties need to listen to the workers and residents. It is time to respect constituents and protect public services.”