Prices and opening hours change at MEA leisure centres as council balances books
Councillors in Mid and East Antrim have agreed cost-saving changes at leisure centres across the borough, located in Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus.
It comes after the local authority examined ways to balance the books in recent months and minimise the impact of soaring energy costs and other inflationary hikes for local rate payers.
Impacted by the same rising costs faced by householders, council recently stated ahead of setting the 2023/24 rates, that cost savings in the year coming would include reviewing use of its buildings and opening hours, including leisure and waste services and increasing charges. It also confirmed levels of funding for major international events would also be reviewed.
It has now been confirmed that all prices for users of the borough's leisure centres will increase by 10%. The centres will also close one hour earlier than the usual time Monday to Friday. It is understood that these changes will save the authority ten of thousands of pounds over a 12-month period.
The changes are effective from 1 April 2023.
Members also recently agreed at the council's Direct Services Committee meeting to stop distributing bin collection calendars to the borough's 58,000 residents. The printing of the 60,000+ calendars, purchase of biodegradable pouches, procurement of a third party to 'pouch' the calendars and delivery by bin collection crews (at additional cost) was estimated to cost around £17,000.
Council will now adopt a 'digital first' approach for the 2023/24 calendar which can be accessed from the council's website or the Bin-ovation app.
For those who have no access to the digital format there will be an option to request a printed copy from the Waste Help Desk.
Commenting on changes at the borough's leisure centres a spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council told Love Ballymena:
“As previously reported, the Council has undertaken a major efficiencies review to minimise the recent rates increase locally and any additional financial burden on our citizens and businesses.
"However, significant pressures regarding soaring energy, fuel, staffing and general costs has resulted in the need for some changes to the operation of our leisure centres.
"We are contacting leisure users directly to inform them that all three Council-run centres will close one hour earlier Monday to Friday. Reluctantly, we will also be increasing our usage fees by 10%, effective from 1 April 2023.
"This is our first increase in several years and we have worked hard to minimise this increase. Our discounted offers – such as those available through monthly and family memberships – continue and our pricing remains very favourable in comparison to competitors.
"We thank our citizens for their understanding. We are currently installing new gym equipment in our centres so users have access to the very best facilities, and this work will be completed soon.”