COUNCIL-owned swimming pools, including Dunmanway, are operating at a loss, a meeting of Cork County Council was told this week.
However, councillors agreed that these swimming pools provide a vital service to communities, despite not making profits.
The report showed that Dunmanway Swimming Pool had a deficit of €209,443 for 2016 and €311,478 for last year, but the costs for 2017 were increased due to additional staff being recruited and a revised maintenance contract.
Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) raised a motion seeking a report into the locations of swimming pools operated by the Council, as well as the income and expenditure associated with each of them.
He also sought what criteria will be used for selecting areas for future investment in new swimming pools or the upgrading of existing ones.
Cllr McGrath said the five Council swimming pools at Fermoy, Mallow, Dunmanway, Cobh and Youghal are important facilities for those towns that have them.
‘As we can see from the report we have five swimming pools that are all loss-making as such but, having said that, they provide a very valuable service in the areas and I certainly don’t want the debate to be about the loss-making nature of them,’ said Cllr McGrath.
‘It seems to me that we haven’t developed any new swimming pools in the last number of years. Obviously Dunmanway was a replacement of an existing pool, so there hasn’t been any decisions made in terms of investment into new swimming pools. If decisions are to be made in the future, what criteria will be used for selecting areas? We have large towns in Cork county with large populations that do not have public swimming pools and I thinks it’s a debate we should have because they are one of the most critical recreational facilities we can provide,’ he added.
Cllr McGrath also said they should question why the swimming pools are making a loss and if there is any way the deficit can be reduced.
Cllr Susan McCarthy (FG) agreed with Cllr McGrath that the swimming pools provide a valuable service, despite being loss-making.
Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) said the municipal swimming pools are very much a worthy investment, rather than a money-making initiative.
‘We are an island nation and our record of water safety is not good enough and the percentage of the public who can swim to a high standard compared to other countries is not good enough,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.
He also appealed to the chief executive regarding the Cork Lifesaving Club, who use Dunmanway pool during the winter, and said there is an issue with the rates that they are being charged and he asked if this could be examined.
Cllr Gillian Coughlan (FF) said this issue was very pertinent to her as she had up to 10 people in the past week asking her is there any chance of a swimming pool in Bandon.
‘The benefit of swimming to the entire community cannot be overstated. It is an investment in the mental health and well-being of any town, said Cllr Coughlan.
‘Bandon now has no swimming pool and while Dunmanway is great, people want to be able to swim in their own community with their neighbours. We need to appeal to the Department to provide more money for the local authorities to build them.’
Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF) said the Council should look at it in a more holistic way and that swimming should be taught as part of the school curriculum.
‘It’s a public service and it’s an investment in our community and people don’t want to go outside their own towns to use a swimming pool,’ said Cllr McCarthy.