An update from the Chairman of the Victory Services Club, Mike Kimmons CB
I am writing to update you on a number of points concerning your Club during this exceptional time. Before addressing those points may I record my deepest condolences to those of you who have lost members of your family and friends due to COVID-19. My fellow Trustees and staff extend their thoughts and best wishes to you at this difficult time.
Notwithstanding the many sad issues and challenges, including disruption which has been caused by COVID-19, I am sure that you will be pleased to hear that the Club remains open to key workers who are employed within the MOD, FCO and NHS, and other vital areas. This provided not only an important service but was one of the Trustees priorities in sustaining an accommodation revenue stream. Twenty five of our excellent staff volunteered to live-in the Club to provide exemplary 24/7 service to between 35 and 55 key workers each night since the first arrivals on 23rd March 2020; this equates to 1550 bed nights. For social distancing reasons and in full compliance with the Coronavirus legislation all meals have been provided by room service. Those staying with us have been extremely praiseworthy of the staff’s efforts. Naturally, if as a member and you are a key worker and you require accommodation in London please contact the Club’s Reception Desk to book a bedroom. This can be done via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0207 7234474. Similarly, if through your own personal contacts, you have members of your family or friends who are key workers and they require accommodation please do pass on our details to them.
While we all look forward to the safe moment when the lockdown can end, we do not assume that Club life will immediately return to what it was. Until the Government is able to publish detailed information on the nature of the continuing social distancing requirements after the end of the lockdown, the CEO and the Senior Management Team (SMT) continue to develop a number of options. Most likely of those, is that we will only re-open to members our 141 single, double and twin en suite bedrooms first. Thereafter, we only anticipate a very limited number of single and double shared bedrooms being available. We will continue with a continental style breakfast delivered to each bedroom, as we anticipate that a buffet style breakfast bar will not be permitted initially. The Club will be able to provide a limited lunch offer to bedrooms at lunchtime and the Chef’s Special for dinner. Looking ahead, we are fortunate that we have large dining facilities and a number of large event rooms so that we can provide lunch and dinner with appropriate spacing. To ensure that we can plan for those meals, all members and their room partners, if they are travelling as a couple, will need to book a table for lunch and dinner. We can provide a bar service to the table and will provide a bar service to your bedroom. As we progress, it may be that our Lounge Bar can open, but with only service to the table; we await instructions on this. The Trustees and the SMT continue to look at potential pricing options for our bedrooms and initially we are looking to hold the price at last year’s rate until 30th November 2020 and that price will also include a free continental breakfast. If we can return to our traditional breakfast service before this date, room service breakfast will stop, and you will be able to take breakfast as normal. More detail will follow in due course.
In terms of our Club Events and external events, including dinners and meetings, we will look to use our extensive facilities to best effect, but we will only do so in a measured way. This is to maintain distancing, while delivering our customary high standards of wonderful food and service.
The Club’s Board of Trustees have been fully engaged with the CEO and the SMT throughout this challenging time. The Board agreed that the Club should seek funding from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (and we await a decision on our application). We have benefitted from a twelve month suspension of our Business Rates and, as part of the Government’s Business Support package we will defer the payment of our VAT bill to the end of financial year in March 2021. The Board of Trustees have fully supported the recommendations of the CEO and the SMT to defer all discretionary spending on capital projects within this financial year, and also agreed to their proposals to reduce expenditure across countless contracts; the support from many of our contractors has been much appreciated. I know that many of you are concerned about our staff. The Club has furloughed sixty staff in accordance with the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which is currently due to end on 30th June 2020. We have sixty staff either working from home, or part of the team working in the Club. No employee has lost their job directly due to COVID-19.
What has been extremely reassuring to the staff has been the exceptionally generous support we have received in response to my appeal to the membership. Through your donations, including Gift Aid, the Club has raised £200,000 which is an astonishing sum and will be used only for the staff. On behalf of my Trustee colleagues I would like to record our considerable thanks to you for supporting our staff in this typically magnificent and thoughtful manner. The staff have seen many of the messages of support on the Just Giving website and in written correspondence and they have been deeply touched by your kindness. That appeal for support was launched before there was any certainty of offers of Government assistance. Given that we should anticipate receiving a Government supported loan, delivered through our Bank, and with the other benefits we have also received and cost-cutting measures that have been applied I would now like to close that appeal. You can, of course, continue to support the Club by encouraging others to become members of the Club, so that we can continue to support our charitable activities. We already have thirty two families waiting to come here to enjoy a free Respite and Welfare Break
Please be assured that the Trustees, SMT and staff are all committed to working hard to deliver a strong and vibrant Club, which will successfully come through this exceptional period. May I thank you again for your generous support.
I wish that you, your families and friends remain safe and well and we look forward to meeting you all again soon.