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Trafford Centre might be forced to close as owners Intu ‘prepare administration plan’

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TOOEDDD / Wikimedia

Intu, the owner of the Trafford Centre, has warned that the shopping centre may be forced to shut. 

Intu has appointed KPMG to prepare a contingency plan for administration and has warned shoppers the famous Trafford Centre might be forced to close, the Manchester Evening News reports.

Intu Properties is currently struggling with £5bn debt and remains locked in crunch talks with lenders after being hard hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

The group also owns Lakeside shopping centre in Essex, and confirmed today they have KPMG on standby as administrator. It is currently negotiating details with lenders as it looks to secure breathing space ahead of a looming deadline on Friday.

Jonathan Hutchins

Intu is hoping to arrange a ‘standstill agreement’ on terms of up to 18 months but said it’s likely this will only be 15 months.

Its lenders have explain that ‘there is a risk that centres may have to close for a period’ if they cannot reach an agreement. 

Intu Properties is trying to negotiate a freeze on loan repayments, however increasing demands from landlords is reportedly making this unlikely.

The company put agreements with creditors on hold to ride out the coronavirus pandemic at the start of June, wavering debts until June 26th, however, according to reports it expects to breach debt commitments by this deadline amid falling falling rental payments. 

Mike Peel

The company announced in May ‘robust action’ against large tenant businesses who haven’t paid their rent during the coronavirus lockdown.

For the first quarter of the year, the company only received 40% of rent and services charges which were due by the end of March 2020.

The firm, which lost £2bn in 2019, warned in March it could collapse if it cannot find further funds.

A statement by Intu on May 18th said that: “in particular looking to achieve stability through standstill-based agreements with relevant financial stakeholders across its structures, at both the asset and group level.”

Seth Whales

The standstill strategy statement says: “At this stage it is not expected that the duration will exceed 15 months.

“How the operations of individual centres are to be funded. Some centres haver educed rent collections as a result of Covid-19 and cash trapped under their financing arrangements which restrict their ability to pay for support (such as shopping centre staff) from other entities in the Intu group.

“Securing additional funding in centres funded by bond structures is more difficult to achieve and, in this connection, consent will be sought shortly from the stockholders of Intu Debenture PLC to authorise the trustee to release certain monies within the existing debt structure to be used for short term liquidity needs.

“Other centres may also require cash injections for these purposes. This all remains subject to further negotiations, with no certainty as to whether Intu will achieve a standstill, or on what terms or for what duration.

“Further announcements will be made as appropriate. Notwithstanding the progress made with lenders, Intu has also appointed KPMG to contingency plan for administration. In the event that Intu Properties plc is unable to reach a standstill, it is likely it and certain other central entities will fall into administration.

“In this situation, all property companies would be required to pre-fund the administrator to provide central services to the shopping centres. If the administrator is not pre-funded then there is a risk that centres may have to close for a period.”

Eirian Evans / Geograph

Intu Properties own nine of the country’s top 20 shopping centres and has been struggling with the shrinking high street retail market for some time. 

Intu is laden with debts estimated to be around £5bn. The value of the shopping centres have fallen by £1.9bn due to the down turn of the market. 

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Liz Truss says British workers need ‘more graft’ and lack ‘skill’ of Chinese workers

She was also heard saying workers outside of London have less productivity

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Number 10 / Flickr & Gov.uk

Conservative leader frontrunner Liz Truss has been criticised after saying British workers need ‘more graft’ and lack the ‘skill and application’ of their foreign counterparts.

Just two weeks on from the backlash surrounding her plan to cut the pay of public sector workers in the north, audio obtained by The Guardian heard Truss discussing the work ethic and attitude of British workers and comparing them to those of foreign workers.

During her discussion, said to have taken place five years ago when she was the chief secretary to the Treasury, Truss could be heard saying: “I once wrote a book about this which got mischaracterised… British workers produce less per hour than … and that’s a combination of kind of skill and application.

“If you look at productivity, it’s very, very different in London from the rest of the country… this has been a historical fact for decades.”

She continued: “Essentially it’s partly a mindset and attitude thing, I think. It’s working culture, basically. If you go to China it’s quite different, I can assure you.

“There’s a fundamental issue of British working culture. Essentially, if we’re going to be a richer country and a more prosperous country, that needs to change… But I don’t think people are that keen to change that.

“There’s a slight thing in Britain about wanting the easy answers. That’s my reflection on the election and what’s gone before it, and the referendum – we say it’s all Europe that’s causing these huge problems, it’s all these migrants causing these problems. But actually what needs to happen is more… more graft.

“It’s not a popular message.”

Number 10 / Flickr

A source from Truss’s team has attempted to downplay the audio, telling The Guardian: “These half-a-decade-old comments lack context but one thing that is as clear today as ever before is a need to boost productivity, which leads to higher wages and a better quality of life for workers right across the UK.

“As prime minister, Liz will deliver an economy that is high wage, high growth and low tax.”

However, when questioned about the audio during a Tory leadership hustings in Perth, Truss appeared to confirm she still believed British workers were not as productive as they should be.

When asked whether she stood by her remarks, Truss said: “I don’t know what you’re quoting there [but] what we need in this country is more productivity and we need more economic growth.”

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Andy Burnham confirms bus fares will be capped at £2 a journey from next month

Passengers aged between sixteen and eighteen will also travel for free under the reform

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Alan Sansbury / Wikimedia Commons

Bus fares across Greater Manchester will be capped at £2 a journey and £5 a day from September, Andy Burnham has confirmed today.

In a tweet this morning, the mayor described his announcement as ‘a glimmer of light in tough times’, before revealing the new bus fares will come into force from the first full working week in September.

The fare changes will include:

  • £2 max single fare for adults.
  • £1 max for under-sixteens. 
  • £5/£2.50 unlimited travel in any day.
  • Free travel for passengers aged between sixteen – eighteen.

These new fares will be valid on all routes across Greater Manchester, regardless of the operator. 

In a follow up tweet, Burnham said the cheaper fares will be paid for by ‘more people using buses’, before pointing out that many are ‘a third or half full at the moment’. 

The mayor first unveiled plans to bring Greater Manchester’s buses back under public control in March this year, with a promise to introduce the new fares in 2023 and 2024.

These plans were swiftly fast-tracked and, while the initial plan was for a gradual roll-out across the region, it was then announced that passengers across the whole of Greater Manchester would benefit from the new fares at the same time. 

Burnham previously revealed that the £5 fare will enable passengers to travel from when they buy the ticket until 3.59am the following day, and will be valid for use across various operators. Currently, a daily fare costs £6.40.

However, the maximum £2 for a single journey fare will only work for a single operator, with the London-style ‘Hopper’ fare unveiled in the first announcement currently on hold.

These capped fares come as part of Burnham’s Bee Network vision, which will see Greater Manchester’s public transport system combine trains, trams and buses in an in-sync timetable.

Walking and cycling will also be integrated in an attempt to create a modern, sustainable, and accessible model for the people of Greater Manchester.

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Pop Idol singer Darius Campbell-Danesh dies aged 41

BREAKING

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ITV

Pop Idol singer Darius Campbell-Danesh has died at the age of forty-one, his family have announced today.

The ‘Colourblind’ singer was found dead in his US apartment in Minnesota on August 11th. The cause of his death is not yet known.

His family said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Darius Campbell-Danesh.

“Darius was found unresponsive in bed in his apartment room in Rochester, Minnesota, on August 11th and was pronounced dead in the afternoon by the local medical examiners’ office.

“The local police department have confirmed that there were no signs of intent or suspicious circumstances. The cause of his sudden death is unknown at this stage while medical examinations continue.

“We ask that you kindly respect our wishes for privacy at this time whilst we come to terms with the tragic loss of our son and brother.”

Darius first rose to fame in 2002 as a contestant on the ITV singing contest Pop Idol, with him eventually coming in third place behind Will Young and Gareth Gates.

The Scottish singer achieved number one in the UK later that year with his single ‘Colourblind’, while his album Dive In reached the top ten.

Darius then went on to enjoy a successful career on the stage, with him appearing in ‘Chicago’ as Billy Flynn in two runs of the production, as well as ‘Guys and Dolls’, ‘Gone With the Wind’ and many more in the West End.

In 2010, he made returned to television by competing in ITV’s Popstar to Operastar, with him eventually winning. 

Darius previously told The Scotsman in 2014 that he was used to overcoming doubts, and always relied on the advice his father gave him as a youngster.

He said: “Anything is possible if you want it enough and if you’re willing to work hard enough at it and if you don’t give up on it. It can seem overwhelming when you set any challenge and I’ve been told many times in my career that things have not been possible.”

 

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