Golf is costing ratepayers at an NI council £1k per day

Loughgall Country Park   Photo courtesy of Google
Loughgall Country Park Photo courtesy of Google

Maintaining two golf courses by an NI council is costing ratepayers around £1,000 every day, according to leaked figures.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council forked out almost £350,000 in running costs for Loughgall Golf Course near Portadown and Silverwood Golf Club near Lurgan across the 2018/19 financial year - with income far outstripped by outlays.

Both clubs are run by the council.

Several councillors, including DUP Cllr Stephen Moutray, voiced anger at the enormous costs and called for a full audit of spending as a matter of urgency, when the issue was discussed at Monday’s council meeting.

The shocking figures show the net cost for Loughgall Golf Club, over the 2018/19 year, was more than £200,000. While it generated an income of more than £185k, a whopping bill of £320,691 employee costs ate up the club’s annual takings.

Outgoings included the cost of premises at £31,436, transport costs of more than £2,000 and supplies and services costs of £31,375.

At Silverwood Golf Course the net cost for 2018/19 was almost £143,000. It was considerably lower than the previous year, 2017/18, when net costs at Silverwood were £202,366.

The Lurgan course brought in an income of £184,630 during 2018/19 but the outgoings far outweighed the income.

Employee costs at Silverwood were £285k while premises costs were £30,750, costs for Supplies and Services were £10,702 while transport costs were £871.

Cllr Moutray said: “While I am not averse to golf, I am not sure that ratepayers should be forking out to pay for games.”

Cllr Moutray pointed out that recently there had been a problem funding lighting at Lurgan Park so that the local athletic club could use it in Winter. “That would have cost £120k - which equates to four months spending on golf,” he said.

He also pointed out that over the past three years the council has spent £1,070,670 on golf.

“We need to find out what is leaking from the sieve as a matter of urgency,” said Cllr Moutray.

Ulster Unionist Cllr Julie Flaherty said it had been discussed at the Estimates Working Group.

DUP Cllr Sidney Anderson said he was ‘astonished’ at the amount spent on golf and asked why this had not been picked up on before now.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council was asked for a response but none was forthcoming at the time of going to press.