Tue, 04/03/2014 - 00:53

Hands Off Our Leisure Centres

Opposition has succeeded in stalling Belfast City Council's moves towards outsourcing and privatisation of the cities leisure centres and facilities.
On the 22nd of February the council’s strategic policy and resources committee voted to hand our leisure centres over to a trust. In a move to offload essential, but underfunded, services city hall will be ditching 10 leisure centres (11 when the council expands in May).
The council are looking to shed the £8 million a year that it spends to barely maintain our underfunded and rundown leisure centres. 300 workers and thousands of working class families who use leisure centres across the city will be affected. DUP chair of the committee Gavin Robinson has refused to rule out closures. Similar moves in Magherafelt Leisure Centre resulted in the loss of 30 jobs.
Following a meeting attended by over 100 people at Andersonstown Leisure Centre in West Belfast protests have taken place with calls for committees, free of politicians, to be set up across Belfast to defend our services.
Saturday 1st of March saw a well attended protest at the Andersonstown Leisure Centre. The lively and well supported protest finished with a march to the local SDLP offices to protest that parties support for privatisation.
Another protest, organised by unions representing council workers, took place outside Belfast City Hall to coincide with the vote on privatisation going before the council.
Opposition to the council’s attempt at backdoor privatisation resulted in them deferring the decision for six weeks. It appears the unions have also been handed a poison chalice - the council agreed to give them £10,000 and 6 weeks to come up with an ‘in house’ alternative.
While the protests so far have stayed the councils hand, for now, an effective campaign needs to be built against attacks on services. Services used primarily by poor and working class communities.