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The owner of Butlin’s is preparing to put it up for sale amid a boom in British staycations, sparking a potential bidding frenzy for the country’s best-known chain of holiday camps.

Sky News has learnt that Bourne Leisure, which also owns Haven and Warner Leisure Hotels, recently picked investment bankers to conduct an auction of Butlin’s next year.

The move comes less than 12 months since privately owned Bourne Leisure sold a majority stake to Blackstone, the private equity giant, in a deal valuing the group at about £3bn.

Butlin’s likely valuation in a sale was unclear this weekend, but bankers and private equity investors said there would be “a deluge” of interest in acquiring the brand and its three sites.

The chain was established in 1936 by Billy Butlin, who – according to its official history – “felt sorry for families staying in drab guest-houses with nothing much to do” during a trip to Barry Island.

He acquired a plot of land in Skegness, Lincolnshire, and opened the first eponymous resort, which is among the three that still trade today.

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In its heyday, Butlin’s operated from nine sites across the UK, entertaining a million holidaymakers each year with knobbly knees competitions and glamorous granny contests.

Hundreds of staff across its resorts became known as Redcoats.

The brand became such an entrenched part of Britain’s popular consciousness that it provided the inspiration for Hi-de-Hi!, the long-running BBC sitcom.

Its fortunes waned with the explosive growth of opportunities for Britons to holiday abroad, but has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent times.

Butlin’s other sites today are at Minehead in Somerset and Bognor Regis, the traditional seaside town close to the South Downs National Park.

The pandemic has triggered rapid growth in the number of staycations, paving the way for a string of deals in the sector.

Earlier this month, Sun Communities, a New York-listed real estate investment trust, paid £950m for Park Holidays, substantial exceeding its owners’ initial price expectations.

The Canadian owner of Parkdean Resorts, a bigger rival to Park Holidays by number of sites, has instructed bankers at Morgan Stanley to prepare a review of options that most observers expect to result in a sale next year.

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Butlin’s likely valuation in a sale was unclear this weekend, but bankers and private equity investors said there would be ‘a deluge’ of interest

Other recent deals in the sector have included the private equity firm CVC Capital Partners buying Away Resorts – the owner of well-known holiday parks such as Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight and Sandy Balls in the New Forest.

CVC subsequently combined Away Resorts with Aria, another operator.

Bourne Leisure, which is run by chief executive Paul Flaum, is said to have decided that Butlin’s is sub-scale and therefore non-core to its growth plans.

Rothschild is understood to have been retained by Blackstone and Bourne to oversee the Butlin’s sale.

The sector’s other big players are expected to explore offers for Butlin’s, although it may end up being sold on a standalone basis to a financial buyer.

Blackstone declined to comment on Saturday.

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Joules secures Next rescue with majority of stores and jobs saved

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Joules secures Next rescue with majority of stores and jobs saved

Collapsed fashion retailer Joules will live on after Next agreed a rescue deal that preserves most of its stores and jobs.

Under the deal Next will pick up 100 of its 132 stores and only 133 of 1,600 staff will lose their jobs.

TFG, the owner of the Hobbs, Whistles and Phase Eight womenswear brands, appeared to be the frontrunner on Wednesday in an auction process to secure an agreement with Joules’ administrator, Interpath Advisory.

Joules is the second major UK acquisition for the fashion-to-homewares retailer in as many months.

Next snapped up the brand, website and intellectual property of Made.com on 9 November.

Joules had been trading as normal since a failure to secure new investment pushed it towards insolvency a fortnight ago.

The clothing, footwear and accessories retailer collapsed after its finances, profitability and cash generation came under pressure amid the cost of living crisis.

It had been in talks with both Next and TFG about new investment beforehand.

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Unions could coordinate strike action across NHS for ‘maximum impact’, GMB boss says

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Unions could coordinate strike action across NHS for 'maximum impact', GMB boss says

Union leaders could coordinate industrial action across the NHS this winter to cause “maximum impact”, the head of the GMB has suggested.

Andy Prendergast, the GMB national secretary, said health workers have had enough of “public school boys who run the government and simply don’t care” about their pay demands.

More than 10,000 ambulance workers from the GMB voted to strike yesterday, following in the footsteps of nurses in opting to walk out.

Union rejects claim granting pay rises will lead to spiralling inflation – politics live

Asked if there will be a “coordinated strike” in the health service, Mr Prendergast told Sky News: “We will be talking to the other unions.

“We know that the nurses have got their first ballot in over 100 years. We know that our colleagues in Unite, in Unison are currently delivering ballots.

“So we’ll be looking to make sure this has the maximum impact.”

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It was put to Mr Prendergast that the safety of patients could not be guaranteed if there is coordinated strike action between unions and the NHS.

He argued their safety is not being guaranteed now due to the staffing crisis, with poor pay driving many out of the profession.

“One third of our members in the ambulance service believe that they have been involved in a delay that has led to a patient dying, so this isn’t a situation where this is a service that runs perfectly well,” he said.

NHS ‘dying on its feet’

“This is a service that’s dying on its feet and our members are actually standing up and the public of Britain should support them. This is a matter of a life or death situation.”

Mr Prendergast said NHS workers “work extremely hard, often for wages that a lot of people wouldn’t get out of bed for”.

He added: “Ultimately they are saying enough is enough. It’s time for them to take action. This is the one thing that they can do to try and improve patient safety, to try and improve the terms conditions, to try and deal with 135,000 vacancies that we have among a service that we rely on.”

Paramedics, emergency care assistants, call handlers and other staff are set to walk out in nine trusts:

  • South West Ambulance Service
  • South East Coast Ambulance Service
  • North West Ambulance Service
  • South Central Ambulance Service
  • North East Ambulance Service
  • East Midlands Ambulance Service
  • West Midlands Ambulance Service
  • Welsh Ambulance Service
  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service

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‘Inflation-busting pay rises are unaffordable’

The industrial action is due to take place before Christmas, with the union planning to meet reps in the coming days to discuss dates.

Thousands of ambulance workers in Unison, the UK’s biggest trade union, also intend to take industrial action before Christmas.

Up to 100,000 nurses from the Royal College of Nursing are also set to stage a mass walkout in December, one of the busiest months for the NHS.

The army has been placed on stand by in case it is needed to fill roles of NHS workers on strike days.

Coordinated strike ‘can speed up negotiations’

Dr Emma Runswick of the British Medical Association told Sky News that coordination between unions will help protect patients as they can discuss between themselves how to cover urgent and emergency care.

She added that an effective coordinated strike “will help to speed up negotiations”.

“We want there to be an impact on the employers and on the government to bring them to the table to negotiate with us. And if we coordinate and if we’re effective, the government and employers will negotiate faster. And that’s better for us and better for patients in the long term.”

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Dr Emma Runswick of the British Medical Association says an effective coordinated strike will help to speed up negotiations.

The UK is facing a wave of strikes this winter as workers from different industries are set to walk out over pay and conditions

Rail workers, civil servants, firefighters and teachers are among the tens of thousands expected to take industrial action as a recession grips the UK and the cost of living rises.

Read More:
Which industries are striking this winter and why?
Eurostar security staff to strike in December, RMT union announces

Wage price spiral ‘nonsense’

Ministers have been criticised for refusing to negotiate with unions, with Business Secretary Grant Shapps saying meeting their pay demands would lead to a wage inflation “spiral”.

Eddie Dempsey, assistant general secretary of the RMT, which covers the transport sector, rubbished that argument.

“This idea that there’s going to be a wage spiral is nonsense because wages have been falling as a share of wealth in this country – what goes to wages and what goes to profits,” he said.

Mr Dempsey said that now, wages only account for around 8% to 12% of unit costs.

He pointed to a study from the Bank of England which found there was no risk of wage-induced inflation across Western economies because people have got less money.

He claimed what the government is actually worried about “is a shift in class power”.

“They’re worried about trade unions and ordinary working people having the ability to bargain for better wages. That’s what they’re worried about.”

Rail union ‘hopeful’ of deal to end strikes

Mr Dempsey said his union has been in negotiations for longer than six months and “every time we feel like we are making headway it has felt like the rug has been pulled out from under our feet”.

However he said there is “definitely a change of tone” with the new Transport Secretary Mark Harper and the RMT is “hopeful” a deal can be reached.

Royal Mail workers are also locked in a bitter dispute over pay and conditions, with the CEO Simon Thompson accusing union leaders of “trying to destroy Christmas” by walking out.

He claimed striking workers had demonstrated “extraordinary behaviours” and that he has heard allegations of racism, sexism and violence.

Royal Mail CEO accused of ‘lying’

Speaking during Sky’s Q&A with union leaders, Dave Ward of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) accused Mr Thompson of “lying”.

He said the union “welcomes an independent look at behaviours” of his members but the CEO’s behaviour should also be investigated.

“He goes on (social media) every single day, including weekends. and he goads our members,” Mr Ward said.

“He’s brought in a team of union and worker busters and they’re deliberately creating a psychological attack on every single worker.

“Go out and ask postal workers how they feel about this particular CEO.”

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Buyers struggling to afford homes after mini-budget despite house prices falling

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Buyers struggling to afford homes after mini-budget despite house prices falling

Buyers are increasingly struggling to afford homes despite prices falling faster, according to a closely watched report.

Average prices fell by 1.4% last month, up from a 0.9% drop the month before, Nationwide Building Society found.

The mortgage lender said it was the biggest monthly drop since June 2020.

It took the annual pace of price growth to 4.4% from 7.2% and the average cost of a home to £263,788.

The findings build on wider evidence of a marked slowdown, partly linked to rising flexible mortgage rates after successive rises to Bank rate by the Bank of England since December last year to tackle soaring inflation.

Nationwide said it was clear that wider mortgage conditions were yet to recover from the financial market meltdown that followed the Truss government’s mini-budget growth plan in September, which hammered confidence in the UK’s public finances.

Lenders withdrew offers and temporarily halted deals as the value of the pound hit a record low and borrowing costs surged.

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Fixed term rates have taken time to ease back towards pre-growth plan levels, damaging affordability.

It has been exacerbated by the wider cost of living crisis, with pay growth lagging far behind the pace of price increases in the economy.

Property website Zoopla reported this week that homes had been typically selling for 3% below their asking price in recent weeks and warned that figure was likely to deteriorate further next year.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “While financial market conditions have stabilised, interest rates for new mortgages remain elevated and the market has lost a significant degree of momentum.”

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He added: “Housing affordability for potential buyers and home movers has become much more stretched at a time when household finances are already under pressure from high inflation.

“The market looks set to remain subdued in the coming quarters. Inflation is set to remain high for some time and Bank rate is likely to rise further as the Bank of England seeks to ensure demand in the economy slows to relieve domestic price pressures.”

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