By Jim Rutherdale, NIPSA Branch 560 (personal capacity)
Ards Borough Council are proposing to close Exploris, Northern Ireland’s only aquarium and a superb asset for everyone in the North, with the loss of 18 jobs. Exploris is especially important to teach generations of kids about the natural world.
Yet again austerity is shown to be against the wishes and needs of the vast majority of ordinary working people. We have to ask why the politicians in Ards Council are intent on closing this educational facility? If they represented the majority of working people – and not the rich – they would refuse to vote through any job loses or closures of services.
Exploris costs £550,000 a year to run but with 100,000 visitors a year paying £7.50 for an adult and £5 for a child it’s clear this is a viable service. But Ards Council are opposed to providing public services. The council had voted to hand over Exploris to the private sector but the company involved pulled out when they heard they would have to pay the staff pensions. Obviously they couldn’t make ‘enough’ profit! Privatisation has shown yet again to be completely inefficient and no substitute for democratic public control of services. The lower Ards peninsula is already a blackspot for unemployment and also linked with that, has suffered dramatically from the collapse of the housing market.
The unions representing workers at Exploris and Ards Council together with the local communities must build a major public campaign to force the councillors to keep Exploris open as a fully publicly-owned service.