Question over staff leisure subsidies

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COUNCIL employees are not charged to use leisure facilities in the borough, despite all three leisure centres running at a significant loss.

Figures recently released showed all three leisure centres in the Craigavon area were haemorrhaging millions.

The figures from 2008 to 2011 showed Waves lost £1.5 million, Craigavon Leisure Centre lost £2 million and Cascades lost £2.1 million.

The ‘MAIL’ was contacted by a furious citizen who wanted to know why ratepayers were having to pay for council staff to use leisure facilities.

The irate ratepayer told how she was dismayed to learn that council staff have free use of the swimming pool and gym at all three leisure centres.

She was also angry to learn staff were treated to subsidised meals.

She found this out when two men got charged half the price as her and her mother when getting the same things to eat at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre.

“When they came to pay their bill it was less than £5 yet mine was almost £10,” she said.

“When I asked the young woman serving us why this was she told me that the two men were members of staff and got ‘staff discount’.

“My husband has to pay full rate for food at his work canteen or take in a packed meal.”

The woman added: “Is paying the wages of council staff not enough? During these hard financial times why are council staff pampered and subsidised by the ratepayer?”

A council spokesperson said: “It is standard practice across local government that Council employees can avail of membership of gym and swim facilities only.

“This decision was taken by Council on the basis that it encourages staff to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

“A healthy workforce is a productive workforce and this initiative, along with other measures has successfully reduced the level of absence by 30% in the last two years.

“Also, there are canteen facilities available for staff which are currently under review.”