Early closure for Mid and East Antrim leisure centres to cut energy costs

Leisure centres in Mid and East Antrim will shut an hour earlier on weekdays from this evening (Monday), the borough council has stated.
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In a post on social media, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council announced that from April 3, Larne Leisure Centre, Amphitheatre Wellness Centre in Carrickfergus and Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Ballymena will close each evening, from Monday until Friday, at 9pm.

The decision has been blamed on “soaring energy, fuel, staffing and general costs”.

The social media post said: “Council has undertaken a major efficiencies review to minimise the recent rates increase locally and any additional financial burden on our citizens and businesses.

Amphitheatre Wellness Centre, CarrickfergusAmphitheatre Wellness Centre, Carrickfergus
Amphitheatre Wellness Centre, Carrickfergus

“However, significant pressures regarding soaring energy, fuel, staffing and general costs have resulted in the need for some changes to the operation of our leisure centres. From Monday 3 April, all leisure centres will close Monday to Friday at 9pm. We thank our members for their understanding.”

Energy usage cost is being reviewed throughout the organisation with a focus on leisure services, council buildings, waste services and an increase in charges is expected. The council highlighted the “high running costs” of the borough’s swimming pools during the pandemic.

In addition, funding for major international events is being reviewed by the local authority as part of a series of cost-cutting measures.

A discussion took place behind closed doors at last month’s council meeting when it was agreed that interim chief executive Valerie Watts looks at the budget for funding for international events in the 2023-24 financial year and future years “seeking prudent and viable options”.

Larne Leisure CentreLarne Leisure Centre
Larne Leisure Centre

Not Supported

Coast Road Alliance Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna proposed a “phased approach” with each event receiving a reduction of 10 per cent in the first year with “further reductions phased” during the next three years but this was not supported.

Other councillors requested the Grants Support Scheme budget for 2023/24 “revert to the level of funding approved in 2022/23 with the addition of £20k to the total budget”.

However, on the proposal of Coast Road Sinn Fein Cllr James McKeown, seconded by Ald Mulvenna, it was agreed the council approves the proposed amendments to the Grant Support Scheme guidance with the addition of £20k to the total budget.

Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Ballymena. Google imageSeven Towers Leisure Centre, Ballymena. Google image
Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Ballymena. Google image

The council is also working on the continued digitisation of services to cut costs. A “digital first” approach has been adopted for the 2023/24 bin collection calendar which would enable a saving of £17,000 with calendars available to view through a ‘Bin-Ovation’ app and on the council’s website instead of being delivered by refuse staff.

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Councillors were reminded a “digital approach would be one of the key themes to deliver the necessary financial savings in order to minimise the rate impact on ratepayers”.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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