Lifeguard staffing solutions kept away from public

Potential solutions to lifeguard failures in Newry, Mourne and Down leisure centres have been kept away from the public eye.
The Downpatrick office of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.The Downpatrick office of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
The Downpatrick office of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

The local authority this week, provided a detailed report to councillors on the difficulties of attracting new lifeguards due to the “combined effect of the cost of living crisis and the draw of private sector pay scales”.

However, the “overview” outlining the staffing challenges and potential solutions for the council’s leisure centres was discussed behind closed doors at the Downshire civic chamber.

In open session, Downpatrick Sinn Fein rep, Oonagh Hanlon said: “One of the main reasons I brought forward this motion in July, was in relation to the feedback I was getting from service users and residents right across the district looking at Newry, Kilkeel and Downpatrick leisure facilities as well as Newcastle.

“There was feedback that classes were being cancelled at the last minute.

“Also, the vitality pool (Down Leisure Centre) was being closed for long periods for the change over of water.

“Given that these challenges kept being presented to ourselves we wanted to bring this motion to give it the attention it deserves.”

A council officer alluded to the staffing issues with a recent training drive for lifeguards gaining 25 applications for 17 appointments resulting in only three permanent roles being taken up with the council.

He added: “The workforce challenges are not just in leisure, but are council wide.

“In relation to opening hours, there is an opportunity for us to look at widening our opening hours. We are not quite where we need to be in terms of service, but we are certainly progressing.” ​