Crowdfunding bid for Sunday centre opening

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The campaign group which has been lobbying the Comhairle to open the Lewis Sports Centre on Sundays have revealed plans to launch a crowdfunding bid to raise the money the council claim it will cost to introduce a trial.

Last week the Comhairle voted 19-9 against a proposal for the Sports Centre to open for three hours every Sunday on a one year trial basis.

Councillors were told that the trial period could cost the Comhairle around £11,000 (the trial is expected to cost £17.1K with an anticipated income of £5.7K which leaves a cost of around £11.4k) and also that a consultation of sports centre staff indicated few were willing to work on Sundays.

Now Families into Sport for Health (FiSH) have responded with plans for a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money required, which the lobby group say would force the Comhairle to adopt Sunday openings.

A spokesperson for FiSH said: “Apparently the only barrier to the Sunday trial opening of ISL is budgetary, FiSH are in the process of setting up a CrowdFunding site to raise the money required by our local authority to run the trial.

“The details of this Crowdfunding website will be released shortly through the FiSH Facebook site and already the pledges are pouring in, even before its official launch.

“FiSH are confident that as local community pressure continues to build and the local authority receive their money, the trial will go ahead in the very near future.”

The Lewis Sports Centre, which is based in Stornoway, is presently open for some 84-hours per week, more than other island sports centre facilities, but those in South Uist and Barra do enjoy Sunday openings.

There is suspicion that the decision by the Comhairle is based on religious reasons.

FiSH continued: “The fact that none of the opposing councillors recognised either the potential additional health benefits that could be achieved, or the need to establish parity with the Southern Isles facilities where Sunday opening is long established, is a significant concern to FiSH who represent many thousands of local residents.”

“FiSH also feels it needs to be pointed out that despite the results of the ISL users survey (guided by senior ISL officials) showing strong demand from actual users of the facility (71% of the 659 users surveyed over 7 days were supportive of Sunday opening) this hard data was not heeded.”

They continue: “It appears that according to opposing councillors the potential costs of running the trial at £11.4K (or just £5.7K in this financial year, if it had opened this month as requested) were just too high at 0.0001% (or 0.00005% if over two financial years) of the overall budget for 2016/17. In statistical terms this is classed as an insignificant amount.

“This reasoning, enabled by senior staff, was just plain silly in the view of FiSH, particularly when CnES underspends for the year just past were over £1m, from a total budget of over £111m.”

This week oil giants Transocean made a £120,000 donation to the Comhairle as a thank you gift following the August arrival of the grounded Transocean Winner oil rig.

It was confirmed on Wednesday that half of the money is to go to the Dalmore and Carloway community where the rig initially ran aground, with the other £60,000, to help emerging sports people on the island with the high travel costs incurred in crossing the Minch for mainland competition.

Referring to the Transocean donation, FiSH commented: “At the meeting, councillors were also made aware that Transocean had just donated a large sum of money to the council, some of which was to promote sport for children (£60,000), yet this could not be applied for this particular use?”

One of the those to vote in favour of the proposed Sunday openings was North Uist and Benbecula councillor Neil Beaton.

He said: “After participating in the vote on this matter it was obvious to me that there was an elephant in the debating chamber representing organisations that measure progress by the number of backward steps they can take. It was apparent from the e-mails and letters I received that preserving the Sabbath was the main objection.”

He added: “This  council has to distance itself from these baleful influences and focus its attention on the wellbeing of its constituents.”