Press Statement 8thh January 2016: Cllr Catherine Connolly
City Council’s Proposal re operation of new Community Centres at Cappagh Park and Ballinfoile is privatisation by stealth and is not acceptable.
Councillor Connolly said the proposal from the Manager in relation to the operation of the new community centres is not acceptable and amounts to privatisation by stealth .
The proposal contained in a written report which is up for discussion and approval at the next Council Meeting on the 11th January is completely at odds with what the public and City Councillors have asked and campaigned for said Cllr Connolly. It is also at odds with the announcement towards the end of last year that the Government had sanctioned the recruitment of staff to enable the City Council to run the community centres directly by City Council staff.
What is now before Councillors for their approval/information however is a written report confirming that Management intend seeking tenders for the operation of the Centres.
Theoretically anyone and/or any entity will be able to apply to operate the Centres said Cllr Connolly but the content of the report clearly indicates that a private for profit entity would most likely succeed in winning the tender and more particularly so if the operation of the two centres are offered as one unit. This would immediately exclude any community group in Knocknacarra and /or Ballinfoile from succeeding as clearly and understandably neither group would be interested in running a community centre outside of its area.
Cllr Connolly said she is extremely disappointed at the way this report has come before the full Council without any prior discussion with local area Councillors as promised and as happened prior to this and without any discussion of any other options –for example the operation of the centres by City Council staff in conjunction/in cooperation with local community Groups.
She said she is heartened however by the outrage expressed by the public and residents to date in both Knocknacarra and Ballinfoile in relation to the proposed privatisation of these wonderful facilities and hopefully both community groups will stand together along with City Councillors and force a change of policy.
Without a doubt it is time for sense to prevail said Cllr Connolly and for both Community Centres to be operated by City Council Personnel and opened to the public for the maximum number of hours per week.
Any other proposal is simply anti-community and an insult to the public in both communities who have campaigned for 20 years plus for a community centre for their area.
Indeed in Knocknacarra she said it took a 20 year battle, 7 City Managers and/or acting City Managers, three Local Elections and four different proposals in relation to a suitable site before the Community Centre was finally constructed and opened to the public in early 2014 in Cappagh Park with its official opening in June,2014.
Since then both the community and local area Councillors in Knocknacarra have struggled to prevent the privatisation of the centre and to have it opened for maximum hours.
The Ballinfoile Community has had to fight a similar battle she said including organizing a protest outside the unopened new centre as well as a protest outside the last City Council meeting in December.
That both communities and Councillors should have to fight in this way for what is an essential community facility is absolutely wearisome said Cllr Connolly who would much rather see the spirit and energy of communities galvanised to help run the centres along with Council staff as effectively and efficiently as possible.