To all Volair Customers & Partners
No doubt you may have seen the recent media coverage regarding Volair which has unfortunately portrayed a negative perspective on what was a very positive story in the local authority stepping in to protect much-loved local leisure facilities! When so many areas of the country have had to close or reduce facilities for the public, surely what has happened in Knowsley – one of the areas hardest hit by the pandemic, by the way – is to be congratulated. The alternative – that leisure centres in Knowsley had closed and that the people who work in those facilities had lost their job – is obviously to be avoided as far as possible.
The COVID 19 pandemic has presented immense challenges for all businesses. The leisure industry was probably hit harder than most. Volair is a leisure business – we operate leisure centres in Halewood, Kirkby, and Stockbridge Village, as well as the Knowsley Leisure and Culture Park in Huyton, and the Soccer Centre in Prescot. All of these facilities are much valued by their local communities, and all of them had to be closed down for months at a time during the pandemic. It is obvious that this enforced closure will have had a significant detrimental impact on the company’s financial position – something we could in no way have predicted when Volair was launched in 2016.
The pandemic meant that the company missed out on substantial amounts of expected income. The situation was made worse when the Government made the appalling decision not to provide us with financial support despite doing just that for other publicly-owned leisure services. As a result, when it came to reopening our facilities, we were facing significant financial challenges. The deficit was so significant that the facilities which I have listed above were under threat.
Not only would closing the leisure facilities mean a loss of services for Knowsley residents and Volair service users, but it would have result a threat to the 220 jobs of the people who work across our five sites – the majority of whom are from the local area.
Knowsley Council agreed to step in to make sure that these much-loved and valued local facilities could stay open. I know that Volair’s employees are very grateful for that support, as are the thousands of people who use our centres. The Council’s very welcome support means that Knowsley residents still have access to these facilities – swimming pools, sports halls, gyms, and more – at a time when health and wellbeing is more important than ever. Any suggestion that this was in some way a poor use of public money is laughable really.
Furthermore, any suggestion of a lack of transparency in this regard is completely unfounded and unjustified. Knowsley Council’s budget papers and decisions are well publicised and a matter of public record, and Volair also publish our accounts.