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

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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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Andy Burnham sets out £69.5m transport improvements for Greater Manchester

The transport system will be ‘world-class and reliable’.

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Mayor of Greater Manchester/Facebook

Andy Burnham sets out £69.5m transport improvements across Greater Manchester. 

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) will be considering a new strategy which involves more stops on the Metrolink and renovation of local rail stations.

Improvements are also expected to be made on the bus network and additional electric vehicle charging points across all ten boroughs. 

Mayor Andy Burnham says the new network will help to reduce social isolation and ‘build stronger and better-connected communities’ following the pandemic. 

Burnham stated: “As we look forward to our recovery, I am determined to speed up the delivery on a world-class, integrated public transport system in Greater Manchester.

“This package of improvements is designed to do just that and lay further foundations for Our Network vision for public transport. It will bring new services to communities with some of the poorest links, as well as improving access for people where it is most needed.”

The funding includes £20m on bus transit schemes, £15m new rail station at Golborne and £7m contribution to Network Rail Greek Street in Stockport.

There is also £2.5m funding on new rail stations and Metrolink stops, £2m investment in a new Travel Hub including Park and Ride at Tyldesley, £10m in funding for EV charging posts across all ten boroughs and £3.3m for Access for Al Funding for the next priority stations.

There will be an additional £10m for further scheme development.

Wigan Council leader, David Molyneux called the new station at Golborne ‘superb news’. 

He said: “It will connect the town and the wider area with Wigan, Manchester, Cumbria and the airport, providing more opportunities for our residents, reducing traffic on local roads and regenerating Golborne’s economy,

“This is the result of a lot of hard work, including from the local community, and I want to thank everyone who pushed hard for this to become a reality.

“This isn’t the end of the process, we still need to make the business case to government and our partners, but this will mean we have the money to deliver if we get the go-ahead.”

Hala AlGhanim / Unsplash

The investment will be the biggest revamp of local transportation since £243m Transforming Cities Fund in 2018.  

The overall aim of Greater Manchester’s transport strategy is to deliver ‘Right Mix’ vision of 50% of all journeys in the city region to be by public transport, cycling and walking by 2040.

See more on the 2040 Transport Strategy here

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Calls to child welfare hotline increase by 50% over course of pandemic 

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Calls from concerned adults to an NSPCC child welfare hotline have jumped by over 50% over the course of the pandemic.

The NSPCC says it is now receiving over 30 calls a day from adults concerned that a child was living with domestic abuse, up 53% from pre-pandemic levels.

The charity warns this situation is likely to get worse as lockdown continues and is urging the UK government to make extra provisions for child victims in its Domestic Abuse Bill.

The NSPCC is calling for an amendment that would legally oblige all local authorities to fund community-based recovery services for child victims.

The bill has been hailed as a landmark piece of legislation and is set to have its second reading and begin committee stage today (Monday 25th). 

When the bill becomes law councils will ensure those who become homeless as a result of domestic abuse will be prioritised for emergency housing. 

The NSPCC wants funding for community-based services also enshrined in law such as counselling to help child victims of domestic abuse recover.

People who experience domestic abuse in childhood can experience difficulty in learning, depression, eating disorders and addiction as they go through adolescence and later adulthood.

Anna Edmundson, the NSPCC’s head of policy, said: “The risk of domestic abuse has been heightened in the last nine months with families living under increasing pressure and behind closed doors.

“To stop the pandemic having a lasting impact on children who suffer in this way it is vital they have access to support in the community to recover and move forward with their lives as not all victims can go to a refuge for support.”

The children’s charity Barnado’s also warned that without a legal provision for community-based services the new Domestic Abuse Bill risked creating a two tier system.

Chief executive Javed Khan said: “As it stands the bill risks creating a two-tier system – with adults and children living in refuges having access to specialist services, but the majority of victims who remain in the family home falling through the cracks.

“I’m urging the House of Lords to support a cross-party amendment – backed by charities supporting women and children – which creates a clear duty on public authorities to provide support for all victims, regardless of their age or where they live.”

Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins said: “Domestic abuse is a truly awful crime which can have a devastating impact on children and young people.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have invested millions to support and protect vulnerable individuals, including three million for specialist services to help children, increased support for the NSPCC helpline, and provided additional funds to support local authorities.

“We are taking important action to better protect the victims of abuse and their children and bring perpetrators to justice.”

If you are worried about a child you can contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

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It’s ‘too early to know’ if schools will go back in February, Hancock says

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The government refuses to commit to reopening schools before the Easter holidays.

The prime minister and education secretary are coming under increasing pressure to reopen schools and provide a ‘route map’ for the reopening plan. 

Rob Halfon, the chairman of the Commons Education Committee, wrote on Twitter that he was seeking ‘clarity’ from the Department for Education and ‘an education route map out of coronavirus to get children learning again at school’.

It comes after growing concern that children are the ‘forgotten victims of the pandemic’. 

Former cabinet minister Esther McVey says the government need to take into account the damage the prolonged closures will do to the future prospects of a generation of children. 

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, she said: “We genuinely seem to have forgotten about the children,”

“Millions of them are missing out on an education, not developing socially with their friends and aren’t allowed to enrich their lives by playing sports and music any more.

“They are the pandemic’s forgotten victims and we’ve got to start thinking about their prospects and futures as well.”

Tory MP, Tom Tugendhat added: “Closed schools increases inequality, exposes the most vulnerable, and creates gaps that cannot be filled. We must open schools as soon as possible.”

Number 10 / Flickr

A senior government source cautioned that the picture has become ‘more pessimistic’ as slowing infection rates were not falling ‘nearly as sharply as had been expected’, reports The Guardian

Robert Halfon urges ministers to put ‘the whole engine of the state’ behind paving the way for schools to reopen.

He told The Guardian: “The whole engine of the state must do everything possible to get our schools open after half-term as was originally proposed,

“If it means priority vaccinations for teachers and support staff then it is worth it because despite the efforts of individual teachers and support staff who are doing their best we are facing an epidemic of mental health problems and educational poverty.

“This is putting enormous pressure on parents and families, many of whom have to give up their livelihoods to look after their children at home. With all the laptops in the world, you still need motivation from parents and when they are working that is very hard, especially with younger children.”

Annie Spratt / Unsplash

General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton said: “At a time when we are worrying about the mental health of young people, the last thing we need now is no one back in school till after Easter,”

Downing Street and the Department for Education are expected to examine the data this week before making a judgment. 

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said schools will be given a minimum of two weeks notice to plan a return of pupils. He added that he is hoping to be able to give teachers and parents an update this week. 

However, it is believed the majority of pupils will not return until at least Easter, despite the government aspiring to have pupils returning to schools from February half-term.

It comes after Matt Hancock told Sky News that we are a ‘long, long, long way off’ easing lockdown restrictions.

The health secretary refused to commit to either mid-February or after Easter as a point for schools to reopen with all pupils.

He told the Andrew Marr Show: “We’re really clear we want to get schools back and as safe as we can, but we have to watch the data,”

“Of course I hope schools go back after Easter and the vaccination programme is going fast. But we’ve got to make sure that we get the cases down and we’ve got to protect the country from new variants coming in from abroad.”

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