Alliance accuses DUP of gross mismanagement

Alliance Councillor for Castlereagh Geraldine Rice has accused the DUP of ‘gross mismanagement of ratepayers’ money for years’ at a protest at the Robinson Centre tonight.

Cllr Rice said the protest on Friday night illustrated the depth of feeling among leisure centre users after it was revealed that it would be closing for up to three years. Well over 100 people attended the protest, including many children, parents and council workers who stand to lose their jobs.

Cllr Rice said: “Peter Robinson can try to dress this up however he likes, but the fact of the matter is that the DUP has set an artificially low rate for years, and the results of that are now plain for ratepayers to see. They have turned out in force to show their disgust at plans to shut their swimming pools.”

“This isn’t just going to be the closure of our pools, it affects council staff, school swimming classes, children on summer schemes, divers, sub aqua clubs and canoeists.”

“Much has been made of a new centre being built in the future, but there are no guarantees that this will even happen. Is the DUP going to admit that the only way that funds for a new centre can be raised is through selling off more council property? Why was the Robinson Centre allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair?”

“The DUP has certainly not explained to the ratepayers why nothing has put in place for leisure users while the Robinson Centre is closed. Alliance has consistently argued for a long-term strategy that would avoid this boom and bust problem, but our advice was ignored. If a proper rate had been set in the past, a replacement centre could have been up and running years ago.”

“Money raised through proper rates in the past would have been a sound investment. At the moment, public amenities are disappearing fast to pay for essential services – which are also being cut.”

“With around 20 full-time jobs set to go at the Robinson Centre and more set to be lost in the Council, it clearly shows how the DUP have mismanaged Castlereagh for years.”

“And all this is happening while the Mayor’s allowance was increased. Ordinary people in Castlereagh are saying enough is enough.”

The major impact of the new rate – three times the rate of inflation – will be:

·the closure of the Council’s only main swimming and diving pool for up to three years at the Robinson Centre

·the closure of the municipal golf course at Gilnahirk for up to two years

·closure of the Dungoyne Community Centre

·an end to funding for Greenway Community Centre

·the Arts budget more than halved to £25,000

·the Economic Development budget cut by almost 85% or £150,000

·cuts on environmentally friendly technical services including 5% on recycling, and 20% on recycling disposal

·severe cuts to summer schemes


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