A network launched to raise the profile of tourism and leisure businesses in St Helens has not met for more than a year, it has been revealed.

The St Helens Visitor Economy Network, which was set up in 2016, is made up of a range of businesses from the private sector.

The overall aim of the network is to bring together local businesses to work together to raise the profile of St Helens and the wider Liverpool City Region.

Partners include Saints RLFC, Knowsley Safari Park, Haydock Park Racecourse, Darkstar Laser, The World of Glass and the North West Museum of Road Transport.

The network has received support from St Helens Council, with officers attending meetings and providing a minor administration role.

The network was re-started in 2016, following the previously successful Tourism and Leisure Business Network from 2005-2012, and chaired by Lynn Ben-Yousef, director of Darkstar Laser.

A new council report said attendance to meetings dropped over time and revealed the last time the Visitor Economy Network met was in 2018.

“The group hoped to identify and demonstrate the financial value of the visitor economy while championing the wonderful borough,” the report says.

“Unfortunately, attendance at the network declined and the network have not met since late 2018.”

St Johns Shopping Centre in Liverpool. Photo by James Maloney

The report says the council’s chief executive at the time, Mike Palin, attended a meeting in February 2018, to task partners with developing a visitor economy strategy.

Members of the Visitor Economy Network were invited to attend a sub-group to develop the strategy.

Roy Benyon, St Helens Council’s head of place and delivery, presented the report to the council’s environment, regeneration, housing, culture and leisure overview and scrutiny panel on Wednesday.

Shoppers on Church Street

Mr Benyon said: “In the report we were honest in terms of the current position, in terms of the network.

“Certainly, we’ve tried to encourage that network to continue and meet.

“I think some of the other networks, certainly if you look at the likes of Knowsley’s network next door, a lot of the other ones, they also struggle as well.

“I think it’s about that drive. If you’ve got one person who will drive it, pulling people in, that network will survive and succeed.

“And I think that’s probably what we do need to encourage.”

The report says the council has reached out to certain businesses in an effort to relaunch the network in 2020.

Councillors were told that Gary Maddock, the council’s town centre manager, will be encouraged to “rekindle” the close links previously forged with the network’s chairman.

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But Mr Benyon said the business sector will need to step up and drive the network if it is to reach its full potential.

Mr Benyon said: “We’ve got the ambition to get that network growing.

“But it’s got to be led by the venues themselves, as it is in other authorities. It’s the actual business economy sector who lead it.

“I think, certainly in St Helens, we’ve probably suffered from the fact that it’s not really been pushed on.”