Roscrea Leisure Centre Board Restores Hours

Thursday, 26 January 2017

FOLLOWING a meeting on Monday evening, Roscrea's Leisure Centre Board announced that it has agreed to suspend the decision to reduce the opening hours in the Centre for a period of three months, and it will enter into a consultation process with management and members over the coming weeks and months. The cut hours will be restored during the next few weeks.

Cllr Michael Smith of the Board said that he hopes the process will be successful and will enable the board to rescind the decision altogether.

'As soon as this obstacle is out of the way,' he remarked, 'we can concentrate on the next challenge which is to encourage greater usage by the local population. Every extra person using this excellent facility helps in the long run.'

Roscrea Leisure Centre opened its doors in September 2009 after many years of campaigning for its creation. It cost 6.5 million to construct, and 24 staff work there.

It's a magnificent facility but according to the Board and to its management, it has been suffering the same fate as many pools across the land over the last couple of years, which is to say not enough people are attending the facility.

On the back of this challenge the management and the Board decided to cut eight hours per week of usage time for users.

This decision was met with widespread anger throughout the town and surrounding area and on Friday evening 50 people attended a public meeting in Abbey Hall to express their anger.

During the meeting it was pointed out that users and members of the facility have not been happy with the way the thing is being run for a long time, and the reduction of opening hours was 'the straw which broke the camel's back.'

Criticism was levelled at the uncompetitive pricing arrangements during the public meeting.

Pat McCabe told Friday evening's meeting that the situation needs to become more consultative and democratic in feel. He urged the Board to consult with the members more and discover their feelings about things. He said it was heartening to see such a good turnout for the meeting.

'It took many years of agitation by the people of Roscrea to bring the Leisure Centre into existence,' he remarked. 'It was constructed and opened during the teeth of a recession. Now we the members are disquieted to witness prices rising and access falling.'

Cllr Michael Smith was also present in Abbey Hall. He said he could not think of any other topic which had generated as much discussion and heat amongst the people of the town.

He pointed out that the Centre is being subsidised by Tipperary County Council on an annual basis. In the first year the subsidy was 63,000. This year it's 95,000.

The Councillor said pools could end up having to cut not just hours, but a day a week. 'Nine employees were recently let go at the Se n Kelly Sports Centre in Carrick-on-Suir. Pools across the land are facing ongoing financial deficits which need to be met.'

He admitted that communication with the Centre's members had not been good over the years, and that it would be better if the Board became more consultative.

One attendee said the communication with the members had been 'nil'.

The councillor commented that the two heavy costs are wages and energy. The energy bill has reduced by 25 per cent.

He said the accounts are audited by a respected accounting firm Patrick C Horan & Company in Thurles.

Brian King told the meeting that Roscrea is like many rural towns in that it has been neglected and ignored. Therefore, it is sensitive to any reduction in its services. 'The library's hours have been reduced, the rail service has been reduced, and the Dean Maxwell home is under pressure. Now there is pressure being imposed on the Leisure Centre. The combination of these things, and others, greatly upsets people.'

'Roscrea has lost valuable industries,' commented another attendee. 'Its retailers are suffering. And we could lose Expressway as well. It's little wonder that people are upset.'

Mr McCabe pointed out that in 2013 and 2014 the wages decreased and the energy costs decreased, but at the same time the subsidy from the Council increased. He said the optics weren't great.

The councillor replied that while the costs went down they didn't decrease sufficiently to have an impact, and the insufficient attendance figures remains the nub of the issue.

Mr McCabe added that the proposal to reduce the Friday hours was especially sensitive with members, as Friday is a popular time.

Another attendee said the Centre was one of the best things to happen to Roscrea and he hoped it wouldn't close completely.

'The midlands is practically forgotten about,' commented another, 'and I would be worried that one day the facility will close and we will have lost yet another important service in the town.' He was critical of the way the Centre is being run, adding that the time for talking is over.

Cllr Smith replied that the Centre is not going to close. The discussion at the moment is meeting costs and discussing cutbacks.

Another attendee said the Board of Management had the same members and structure since its inception in 2009 and it should have new members, including one or two Leisure Centre members.

There was also some criticism of the way the 2 for 1 membership scheme is being run. This is a year's membership for two people at a reduced cost. There are question marks over whether it will be disbanded or increased.

Brian King said the prices are too high for users. He added that the membership Comment Cards in the pool were removed recently, which sent out the wrong impression. 'The Board should immediately carry out a survey of the members,' he remarked, 'and ascertain their opinions.

'Last year when we set up an engagement group and brought our concerns to the management and the Board, we were referred to as customers. We are not customers. We are members, who feel deeply about this facility. It took many years to create the pool. The idea was first mooted as far back as the 1930s and it didn't become a reality until 2009.

'The engagement group also pointed out that a regular user of the Centre should be a member of the Board of Management.

'The Birr Swimming Pool model is an interesting model, which might suit Roscrea.'

Another attendee commented that the Centre should be advertised more, and there should be a drive to get sports clubs to use it more often.

P.J. Wright said many people in Roscrea haven't yet been to the Centre. He urged them to use this magnificent facility.

'The huge turnout here is a positive thing to emerge from this meeting,' said Pat McCabe. 'It is a strong message from us to the Board and to management that the Leisure Centre means an awful lot to us and we will not let these issues go.'


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