Alliance Party Castlereagh Councillor Geraldine Rice has said she hopes that Castlereagh Council will overturn plans to close the Robinson Leisure Centre tonight.
Protesters are expected at the civic offices tonight to demonstrate against the proposal to close the centre. The council is meeting to decide whether or not to ratify previous recommendations.
This rates crisis was brought about through years of financial mismanagement by the DUP-controlled council, who constantly set artificially low rates against Alliance advice. This year Castlereagh’s rates are set to rise by 9p in the pound, which will inevitably lead to cuts in council services and the loss of jobs. Hundreds of council workers, children and parents have already taken to the streets of Castlereagh to protest against the closure of the Robinson Centre, and many are expected back this evening.
Cllr Rice said: “This really is sink or swim time for the Robinson leisure centre. Hopes are rising that the council has listened to the hundreds of people who protested and supported the retention of the Robinson Centre.”
“While the decision was taken at the rates meeting to close the pools for two to three years, I hope and expect that some reconsideration has taken place. When a wrong decision is taken, the only recourse is to put it right as soon as possible. That means keeping the pools open. If only people had listened to common sense in the first place.”
“Even if the centre remains open, there is still the prospect of increased costs, the threat of jobs being lost and other council-run services facing closure. There are also questions to be asked about a loan of over £6 million the Council is understood to be considering. The public has a right to know if this to offset the previous mismanagement of funds, and how it will be paid for. Is it any wonder the DUP is so anxious to sell off council assets, such as Hydebank playing fields, to developers?”
“The tragedy is that the DUP will probably continue to boast about setting a low rate, but at last the public are asking: Is it really worth it, in terms of lost jobs, loss of leisure and community services and massive cuts in areas like the arts?”
Council will be meeting tonight at 7.30pm at Castlereagh Council civic offices, Forestside. A protest is expected outside.