The new ABC Council isn’t exactly covering itself in glory.
Many projects seem to be gummed up in the system, 20 months after it became a ‘shadow council’ in May last year and then took over the full reins from Armagh (A), Banbridge (B) and Craigavon (C) in April 2015.
Many moons ago, a new £30m leisure centre was announced for Craigavon, on a site beside the city lakes. Councillors had travelled extensively to view the latest in recreational delights in many parts of the UK. Architects’ drawings – in glorious colour and even more glorious computerised images - were presented to an admiring public at various times.
The latest idea was an aqua park, with all sorts of water joys, to be sited at the lakes. The starting date, it was stated, would be around the time that the new order (ABC) took over and it should have been in operation shortly.
The plan was to close the ‘outdated’ Cascades (Portadown), Waves (Lurgan) and Brownlow Leisure Centre, all of which are in need of expensive remedial work. It looks as if they’ll have to soldier on, and no doubt other projects in the former Armagh and Banbridge council areas are equally frozen, with the new order carrying out a major assessment in a sprawling council area that seems to have lost much of its former local ethos.
ABC also seems to be struggling to complete its staffing set-up, and sources within the various departments insist that it is having a detrimental effect on morale. Four strategic directors are required, two permanent ones have been appointed and one is temporarily in post. Some 14 heads are needed, with eight from former staff in place.
Nine former directors of the old council are, according to our sources, in something of a limbo, choosing to see if they are required in future. In the meantime, they are carrying out ‘projects’, remaining on their former salaries from 60k to 80k.
It is alleged that Craigavon is behind in the game, compared to the other 10 new Northern Ireland super-councils. Our sources speak of deep frustration in getting the new regime up and running at full power. It seems that, despite reducing the number of councils from 26 to the current 11, the savings will not be as comprehensive as first anticipated.
The Portadown Times was informed that a response from the council will be forthcoming next week.
Meanwhile council members Arnold Hatch and Kenneth Twyble are spot-on when they point out that Portadown’s street lights are tantamount to the notorious ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’, the situation being highlighted (or lowlighted) by the clocks going back. But the DRD, from enlightened Belfast, insist they are up to standard.
Still, as Alderman Hatch says, we’ll be able to see our way around the town centre when the Christmas lights are switched on next Thursday.