West Limerick leisure centre could face 20% cut to funding

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Askeaton Leisure Centre could be hit by cuts from the new council
ASKEATON Leisure Centre’s annual grant from the local authority could be facing a cut after councillors voted to reduce the property tax by 3%.

ASKEATON Leisure Centre’s annual grant from the local authority could be facing a cut after councillors voted to reduce the property tax by 3%.

At present, Limerick City and County Council pays an annual contribution to the facility to shore up the losses it would otherwise incur.

This year, the authority paid €130,000 to the centre, which houses the only public swimming pool in the West Limerick area.

But according to a document obtained by the Limerick Leader, this funding could be cut be cut by some €26,000 next year.

It comes as council officials fight to fill a funding gap of almost €500,000 which has opened up following the Fianna Fail led decision to cut the property tax by 3%.

It will be the role of councillors to accept the cut, or find savings elsewhere, and Askeaton-based councillor, and chairman of the centre’s management committee Kevin Sheahan said he will fight “tooth and nail” to ensure the funding for the centre is protected. The centre was opened, thanks to a €3.8m grant from the Department of Art, Sports and Tourism, and a further €370,000 from sports grants.

At the time it was opened by then President Mary McAleese back in January 2008, Cllr Sheahan said it was agreed that the local authority would pick up the deficit on an annual basis.

“It would be a significant [cut] and I would be very disappointed. Anyone who anticipates reducing the contribution towards the deficit would be seriously in breach of a contractual arrangement with the Department of Sport,” council leader Sheahan said, “Every leisure centre in the country loses money unless it is tied into other sports facilities, and everybody knows that in the business. If there is a deficit, the council is obliged by law to guarantee.”

The Fianna Fail councillor says a number of efficiencies have been introduced in the last number of years.

“I am quite satisfied that the efficiencies there have been improved on steadily since it opened, and possibly there would be more efficiencies which we have to introduce the facility to,” he said.

Some 20 people work at the leisure centre, which is operated on behalf of the local authority by Coral Leisure.

Elsewhere, the council executive is also proposing a reduction to the €5,000 funding it has set aside for Rathkeale’s designation as a RAPID town.

It plans to shave €1,000 off this, but it is likely to be opposed by West Limerick councillors when they meet to pass the budget in December.

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