Belfast Telegraph

Leisure centres backlash: Belfast City Council threatened with industrial and potential legal action

Union's strike threat after committee backs privatisation

CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Belfast City Council has been threatened with industrial and potential legal action if it votes to outsource leisure services.

It comes after a new leisure trust model to transform leisure services was backed by a council committee yesterday.

That decision will go before the full council next Thursday.

Last month Belfast City Council gave trade unions six weeks to come up with an alternative to its favoured choice of setting up a not-for-profit trust to manage its leisure centres.

A Deloitte report commissioned by the council identified the trust model as the only one capable of delivering the savings needed.

However, a report by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) commissioned by Unite challenged it.

Belfast City Council currently has responsibility for 10 leisure centres, which employ 300 staff.

Yesterday morning more than 50 Nipsa members protested at Belfast City Hall before the policy and resources committee met.

Nipsa's assistant general secretary Bumper Graham said hundreds of jobs would be affected.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "Firstly, we hope that the full council would overturn the decision from the policy and resources committee, and if they don't then Nipsa will be considering, in conjunction with the other unions, not just taking industrial action but also considering potential legal action against the council.

"We will also be embarking upon a public campaign to overturn the decision and would remind those councillors that elections are only days away and would be asking the people of Belfast not to vote for those councillors who are prepared to externalise the provision of public services.

"We are going to do everything we can to stop it proceeding and will take whatever action we need to take to do that."

Mr Graham said Nipsa wanted to "transform leisure services of Belfast into modern leisure services provided by employees of Belfast City Council".

He added: "Over 300 jobs affected and the council can seek to dress it up whatever way they like, but at the end of the day this is privatisation by the back door."

Belfast City Council said a new leisure trust model had been backed by the council.

It said: "The council's strategic policy and resources committee confirmed this morning its decision, taken in February, as part of a £105 million investment over the next 10 years to improve leisure provision in the city.

"This investment is in addition to the council's £150m investment programme and will include areas that are joining Belfast as part of local government reform. Today's decision now has to go to the next full council meeting next Thursday for ratification."

STORY SO FAR

In February a council committee voted in favour of the outsourcing operation of city leisure centres.

Councillors voted in favour of transferring the management of its 10 leisure centres to a not-for-profit trust.

Last month, unions were allowed £10,000 and six weeks to come up with a model that would deliver the same savings.

Further reading

Union contests council plan for shaving £2m off leisure centres

Leisure centres offer Easter fun

Unions to table Belfast leisure centres revamp plan

Job fears over leisure centres shake-up plan

£2m price tag for Maysfield Leisure Centre where U2, Motorhead and REM played

 

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