Groups on the move as price-hike stands

A number of Dromara groups have been left with no choice but to stump up or up sticks after their counter-offer to a community centre price-hike was rejected.

Groups including the Dromara Local History Group, The Art Club, Bums and Tums and the Thursday Club had hoped to meet the local community group half way after it announced a 50% increase, from £10 to £15, in the hourly hire-cost of the Lagan Park Centre. With their offer of £12.50 an hour rejected, it’s understood two of the groups concerned - Bums and Tums and the Thursday Club, the latter resident at the Hillsborough Road Centre since it opened - are relocating.

Early in the argument the community group said it had held out as long as possible on the price-rise, the first since Lagan Park was opened some years ago.

It was in fact a reversion, it said, to the amount originally charged for use of hall and kitchen before a £10 fee for the use of the hall alone somehow became established as a flat-rate for both.

“It’s not something we wanted to do at all,” a spokesperson said at the time, “but we’re a small group of volunteers here.

“We don’t want to make things difficult but we did look at what other groups are charging and we would be failing in our management of the hall if we didn’t maintain and keep it for others to use.”

A source within one of the groups affected, however, challenged the nett benefit to the hall when resident groups were relocating as a result of the price rise.

“We know costs have gone up but to make and increase of 50% without any warning is just outrageous,” they said.

“They turned down an increase of 25% which most groups would have been happy to pay.”

There was criticism too of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, with some hall-users reportedly convinced the local authority could have exerted more influence, a claim The Leader put to the council. By time of going to press no response had been forthcoming.

Those groups opting for now to stay put at the Lagan Park Centre are understood to have been swayed by considerations surrounding the likely disruption of existing schedules.