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MURPHY OBTAINS “GUARANTEE” FROM MINISTER ON EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF SWIMMING POOL FACILITIES

Press Release 9th June 2011

Upon pressing Minister of State for Sports & Tourism, Michael Ring on whether he would ensure that measures be taken so that the clear inequities the Government’s Swimming Pool Programme that saw a situation whereby “two swimming pools were funded in Tralee while there is a major deficiency in my area. The towns of Leixlip, Celbridge, Maynooth and Kilcock have the same population as Waterford city but they have no swimming pool”

During the ensuing debate surrounding Deputy Murphy’s questions on the current swimming pool programme, which in fact saw a closing date for applications as far back as 11 years ago in 2000, Murphy acknowledged that the “precarious financial position” of the State must of course be impacting on the Government’s ability to re-open the programme.  However, she also highlighted the urgent need to “fill obvious gaps” in order that participation in sport can be encouraged to ensure that the general health of the population be improved.

“Facilities of this type are of huge importance in facilitating people to live healthier lives.  An unhealthy population will cost our health system a fortune both in the long and short-term and schemes like this have to be seen for what they are; a great way for the government to provide facilities that encourage people to engage in preventative medicine.”

The current Swimming Pool Programme closed for application in 2000 and according to Minister Michael Ring although 46 of the 58 projects assigned funds from the budget of €3.8 million have been completed, the 12 remaining projects are still at various stages within the process.  The Minister highlighted that as only 80% of the total capital cost of the approved building or refurbishment works is provided by the programme (90% in disadvantaged areas), local authorities are encountering difficulties in availing of the funds allocated to them as they cannot raise their 20% share of the cost.

While Murphy later stated that it was encouraging to see the Ministers acknowledgment of this problem and his stated “hope to complete the current round of projects”, she went on to ask.

“Does he foresee the programme being re-opened even on a limited basis to fill obvious gaps” and “during the review, will the Minister of State closely examine obvious geographical deficits? That is essential if there is to be equity in the delivery of sporting facilities.”

In direct response to this question the Minister said,

“I certainly will. The Deputy has made a fair point. I thoroughly agree with her that funding was not disbursed equally throughout the country. Some communities had to fight harder than others to draw down funding from the Department. If the scheme is reopened, I give the Deputy a guarantee that it will be fair and equitable. Every region and disadvantaged area will be considered and will be dealt with fairly.”

The North Kildare TD was very welcoming of the Minister’s response to these questions as, according to her, it “shows his acknowledgement of the gross inequity with which the programme has been run in the past and is as positive a response as I would have envisioned getting on the matter.”

Murphy has committed to continued pursuit of the issue until Kildare gets it’s fair of this national scheme.

ENDS

 

http://debates.oireachtas.ie/dail/2011/06/01/00021.asp – 1st June 2011

36.  Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport the projects that remain outstanding in the swimming pool programme; the stages the outstanding projects are at; if swimming pools were included in the review of sporting facilities formally covered by income from the proceeds of the National Lottery; if it is likely that this will be a source of funding for swimming pool projects into the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10610/11]

Deputy Michael Ring: Under the local authority swimming pool programme, which is administered by my Department, grant aid to a maximum of €3.8 million is provided to local authorities towards the capital costs of new swimming pools or the refurbishment of existing pools, subject in both cases to the total grant not exceeding 80% of the eligible cost of the project or, in the case of projects located in disadvantaged areas, 90% of the eligible cost. Under the guidelines there are four principal stages in a swimming pool project following the submission of a feasibility study. These, in order of progress, are preliminary report, contract documents, tender and construction.

Since 2000, when the current round closed to new applicants, 58 projects have been or are being dealt with under the programme, of which 46 have been completed and 12 others are at various stages. Loughrea and New Ross have had their tender reports approved; Ballybofey-Stranorlar and Loughlinstown have had contract documents approved and are at the tender report stage; Buncrana, Castlebar, Dunmanway and De Paul, Navan Road, are preparing contract documents; and Edenderry, Clara, Ballaghadereen and Balbriggan are at preliminary report stage.

A value for money and policy review report of the programme was completed and published by the Department in 2008. The review recommended the programme should continue to be the means by which public swimming pools are provided and any new round should take account of the recommendations of the review report. The programme is not funded by the national lottery.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: The current swimming pool programme closed in 2000. I acknowledge the lengthy lead in time for swimming pool projects but there has been an inequitable distribution of projects nationally. For example, two swimming pools were funded in Tralee while there is a major deficiency in my area. The towns of Leixlip, Celbridge, Maynooth and Kilcock have the same population as Waterford city but they have no swimming pool and they have been treated inequitably. Is it intended to reopen the programme? I realise the State is in a precarious financial position and the programme is not a high priority, but the lack of a swimming pool is a major deficiency in communities. The Minister of State has referred to encouraging people to participate in sports and swimming appeals across the age spectrum. Does he foresee the programme being re-opened even on a limited basis to fill obvious gaps?

Deputy Michael Ring: I hope to complete the current round of projects and that is what we are doing. Local authorities have a major problem raising the matching funds now. The Department is reviewing the cost of the entire programme. Local authorities are looking more at refurbishment and they have said that perhaps a scheme could be introduced in the context of energy costs. The problem is local authorities do not have the matching funds and we are reviewing the programme. I hope with my officials to make an announcement shortly on whether it will be reopened.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: During the review, will the Minister of State closely examine obvious geographical deficits? That is essential if there is to be equity in the delivery of sporting facilities.

Deputy Michael Ring: I certainly will. The Deputy has made a fair point. I thoroughly agree with her that funding was not disbursed equally throughout the country. Some communities had to fight harder than others to draw down funding from the Department. If the scheme is reopened, I give the Deputy a guarantee that it will be fair and equitable. Every region and disadvantaged area will be considered and will be dealt with fairly.

 

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Posted by on June 9, 2011. Filed under Community Facilities,In the Dáil,Kildare,Planning & Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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