There is “absolutely no threat” to the future of Askeaton Pool and Leisure Centre, according to local councillor and cathaoirleach of Limerick City and County Council, Kevin Sheahan.
There had been fears for the centre after council management suggested its funding could be cut by €26,000. This was in response to a decision by councillors to reduce property tax in Limerick by 3% –thus leading to an overall reduction in income for the council of about €500,000.
However, Cllr Sheahan insisted that, irrespective of its financial position, the council was contractually obliged to make up any funding shortfall at the centre.
Last year, the council funded Askeaton Leisure Centre to the tune of €148,000.
“The council has a 51% share in the centre and Askeaton Swimming club has the other 49%. They are doing more than their fair share as joint owners and the council are doing their share by picking up the deficit in accordance with the contract they entered into,” he said.
Declan Nash, manager of the leisure centre, said he and his staff had been reassured over the future of the centre. But he acknowledged that recent media reports about the future of the centre had caused some concerns among people who use the centre.
However, Mr Nash insisted it was business as usual and that the future of the centre was secure.
“People don’t need to have any concerns and if they decide to take out membership, their money will be safe,” he said.
He pointed out that in recent years, there had been considerable investment in improving the facilities and that membership had increased.
The leisure centre was recently awarded an Ireland Active White Flag - gold standard for the quality of their facilities and service to members.
“Obviously we have to charge affordable prices as part of our contract so we are always going to be under a bit of pressure and we are always going to be running a deficit, but that is the same as any county council leisure centre,” he said.
The issue arose last week after local Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary raised the possibility that the cut of €26,000 could threaten the future viability of the centre.
However, in reply to the assurances given by Mr Nash this week, Cllr Keary said: “I am delighted the management are satisfied that they can do without the €26,000, if that is the case.”
He added that he had based his comments an article printed in the Limerick Leader on October 11 which revealed that council management had earmarked a number of cuts to the budget for 2015 which would be necessary if councillors went ahead with a 3% cut in property tax.
Independent councillor Emmett O’Brien, insisted that the property tax cut would not impact on the viability of the centre.
“As a result of this prudent reduction in Local Property Tax there is only in reality a quarter of 1% reduction in the overall Council budget. How in that context the future of Askeaton Leisure Centre could be questioned is frankly beyond me,” said Cllr O’Brien.
“There is no threat to the future of Askeaton Leisure Centre and I can assure the employees,” he added.
A spokesperson for Limerick City and County Council said the estimated funding for the centre for 2014 was €130,000. “Askeaton Pool and Leisure Ltd has operated at a loss over the last number of years after including the subsidy from the Council. In 2014 work has commenced on areas within energy that will provide greater efficiencies and savings going forward,” the spokesperson added