Spat over cash for centre upgrades

Cllr Liam Mackle
Cllr Liam Mackle

A row has erupted about the allocation of council funding for community centres in Lurgan.

A report recommending that North Lurgan Community Centre is allocated £500,000 while Avenue Road and Mourneview receive £150,000 each was dismissed by the DUP who demanded equal funding for all three centres.

Joe Nelson

Joe Nelson

The options appraisal carried out by a top consultant studied the usage at the various centres discovering that Avenue Road had 25% usage, Mourneview 18% and North Lurgan 69%. Based on this and other criteria the consultant recommended that cash ringfenced by Craigavon Council for community centre development be distributed with North Lurgan receiving the bulk while £150k each set for south Lurgan.

However DUP councillor Carla Lockhart said she was outraged and vowed to fight to have £500k spent on all three centres.

It is understood that at a fiery development committee meeting on Monday night, the DUP proposed to allocate £500k to each of the centres.

The proposal has yet to come before this Monday night’s full council meeting but SDLP councillor Joe Nelson said the DUP’s position could jeopardise any funding set aside for these centres.

Carla Lockhart

Carla Lockhart

Cllr Nelson told the Mail that any proposals on the issue would be forwarded to the new Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon supercouncil and local centres could lose out.

“We have no budget for the DUP proposals and everyone could lose out. Her (Carla’s) actions are cutting her nose off despite her face. If we do not accept this report everything could be lost.

Cllr Lockhart told the Mail: “This comes as a direct result of a Community Centre Options Appraisal carried out by Craigavon Borough Council which suggested a £500k spend on North Lurgan and a £150k spend on Avenue Road and Mourneview Community Centres.

“I have launched a campaign were I proposed that an equal spend of £500k is spent on all of the Community Centres in Lurgan and that money is spent looking at a partnership agreement with Mount Zion House in the North West area.”

“I am not prepared for South Lurgan to be a poor cousin to that of North Lurgan. I am extremely unhappy that the suggestion has been made to make a difference when both Avenue Road and Mourneview have not had any spend for in excess of 30 to 40 years.

“Usage figures are lower in the South Lurgan area but that is owing to the buildings not being fit for purpose. Currently there is not even facilities to play sport, host parties, have conference facilities all very simple events that help create and garner a community spirit within the area. I have made a commitment to take this to the new Council and ask for a £500k spend on all of the community centres and I will fight tooth and nail to deliver.”

Cllr Liam Mackle said: “Sinn Féin have always maintained the position that provision should be made on the basis of need. There is a clearly identified, and long accepted, need to provide for a large population base in the North Lurgan area. There is also a clear need for provision in the Shankill and North-West Lurgan area, which currently has no provision whatsoever.”

Cllr Mackle added: “Ignoring advice from Council Officers and consultant reports, paid for by public money, leaves Councillors vulnerable to challenge.”

“Any attempt to jeopardise the planned provision for North Lurgan, on the basis of sectarianism or on any other basis, will be strongly opposed and challenged by Sinn Féin. Financial decisions of this nature cannot just be made at the drop of a hat, and are open to scrutiny by the public, by the Equality Commission, by the Local Government Auditor and by the courts.”