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RTÉ increases redundancy target of 60 after scheme is oversubscribed

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RTÉ’s voluntary exit programme has been oversubscribed and the broadcaster will now seek more than the original target of 60 redundancies, it told staff on Monday.

In a message to employees, director-general Dee Forbes linked the decision to accept “in excess of 60 exits” to the RTÉ Trade Union Group’s rejection last month of temporary pay cut proposals put forward by management.

Ms Forbes said the ballot result made clear that pay cuts were “not an acceptable part of the response” to its financial challenges, but that RTÉ still needed to reduce its operating costs by €60 million between 2020 and 2023.

“Notwithstanding the result of the ballot, the need for long-term sustainable cost savings has not diminished,” she wrote.

The broadcaster is still reviewing applications to the voluntary redundancy scheme, which opened earlier this year, and is expected to inform staff later this month if their application has been successful.

RTÉ, which employs more than 1,800 people, hinted that future communications with staff might not always involve the Trade Union Group.

“It is also clear from your feedback that, in addition to the long-established channels we have for consultation and discussion, we must find a structural way to engage and communicate with the circa 50 per cent of you who are not members of representative bodies,” Ms Forbes wrote.

The broadcaster is now “actively suppressing a range of vacancies”, including those that arise in instances of retirement “where possible”, while all fixed-term contract roles are being reviewed “to assess the necessity to renew”.

Review of grades

The organisation will shortly engage “an expert partner” through a public tender to “carry out a full evaluation of staff roles and grades”, with a view to reducing its dependency on external resources and overtime.

A restructure and rationalising of its grading system was a recommendation of Kieran Mulvey’s 2017 review of gender equality at RTÉ, while Ms Forbes recently told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that there were 167 grades in operation across the organisation.

“While this is a complex piece of work, it is our aim to begin this process in mid-summer, to complete next year,” Ms Forbes wrote in a note to staff.

RTÉ recorded a surplus in 2020 as a result of costs deferred or cancelled due to the pandemic.

Additional savings are now expected to arise following further unplanned production disruptions, sports deferrals and curtailments, and restricted activity on site in Donnybrook, Ms Forbes said, with the impact of Covid-19 persisting “longer than we had envisaged or budgeted for earlier in the year”.

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Southwold beach hut which is 10ft wide with no running water or electricity up for sale for £250,000

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A beach hut in an upmarket seaside town which is famed for its celebrity visitors has gone on the market for a record £250,000.

The price is believed to be the highest ever to be asked in the UK for a hut which people are not allowed to sleep in – and is double the cost of a three bedroom terraced house just 10 miles away.

The hut, numbered 149 and called ‘Here’s Hoping’, measures 10ft 6ins wide and is in a prime position on the promenade in the Edwardian town of Southwold, Suffolk.

The resort has always been a popular retreat for well-heeled Londoners and celebrities including Chris Evans, Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis.

Beach huts on the south coast can be more expensive with selling prices for some in Dorset exceeding £500,000.

But the huts in Southwold, which have no electricity or running water, are subject to strict local by-laws which ban anyone from sleeping overnight.

A beach hut called 'Here's Hoping', pictured, which sits on the promenade of the upmarket seaside town Southwold in Suffolk, Doset, famed for its celebrity visitors, has gone on the market for a record £250,000

A beach hut called ‘Here’s Hoping’, pictured, which sits on the promenade of the upmarket seaside town Southwold in Suffolk, Doset, famed for its celebrity visitors, has gone on the market for a record £250,000

The price is believed to be the highest ever to be asked in the UK for a hut which people are not allowed to sleep in. The hut, called 'Here's Hoping' and numbered 149, measures 10ft 6ins wide and is in a prime position on the promenade in the Edwardian town

The price is believed to be the highest ever to be asked in the UK for a hut which people are not allowed to sleep in. The hut, called ‘Here’s Hoping’ and numbered 149, measures 10ft 6ins wide and is in a prime position on the promenade in the Edwardian town

The resort has always been a popular retreat for well-heeled Londoners and celebrities including Chris Evans, Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis. Beach huts on the south coast can be more expensive with selling prices for some in Dorset exceeding £500,000

The resort has always been a popular retreat for well-heeled Londoners and celebrities including Chris Evans, Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis. Beach huts on the south coast can be more expensive with selling prices for some in Dorset exceeding £500,000

The buyer will still have to pay annual ground rent of £998 and will only have 18 years left of a 30 year lease, although there will be an option to renew.

They will be able to enjoy spectacular views from a veranda overlooking the beach and the North Sea, while being just a short walk from pubs, restaurants and shops.

But just 10 miles away in Lowestoft, Suffolk, there are several homes up for sale, priced between £120,000 and £140,000.

But the huts in Southwold (pictured), which have no electricity or running water, are subject to strict local by-laws which ban anyone from sleeping overnight

But the huts in Southwold (pictured), which have no electricity or running water, are subject to strict local by-laws which ban anyone from sleeping overnight

Southwold beach (pictured) has always been a popular retreat for well-heeled Londoners and celebrities including Chris Evans, Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis

Southwold beach (pictured) has always been a popular retreat for well-heeled Londoners and celebrities including Chris Evans, Michael Palin, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis

Huts in the best locations within Southwold, which is famed for its Adnams brewery, pier and lighthouse, are rarely on the market and some have been in the same family or generations

Huts in the best locations within Southwold, which is famed for its Adnams brewery, pier and lighthouse, are rarely on the market and some have been in the same family or generations

Several semi-detached homes in the area offer three bedrooms, one bathroom and two reception rooms, and is located 0.1 miles away from Lowestoft railway station.

Another property on the market is a £90,000, three-bed semi-detached bungalow at Broadlands Park and Marina in Lowestoft which has a garden, one bathroom and one living room.

The listing for the beach hut boasts that it has ‘glazed double folding doors’ and ‘a number of storage cupboards’.

The previous highest price asked for one of Southwold’s 300 beach huts was £150,000 in September 2018.

Prices have soared since then as property prices have continued to increase and the demand for staycation breaks following the Covid epidemic has boomed.

Huts in the best locations within Southwold, which is famed for its Adnams brewery, pier and lighthouse, are rarely on the market and some have been in the same family or generations.

Several semi-detached homes in the area offer three bedrooms, one bathroom and two reception rooms, and is located 0.1 miles away from Lowestoft railway station

Several semi-detached homes in the area offer three bedrooms, one bathroom and two reception rooms, and is located 0.1 miles away from Lowestoft railway station

Many are rented out for around £600 a week to visitors who flock to the town.

The latest asking price is more than double the price of a three bedroom terrace house on the market for £110,000 around ten miles away in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

More than half the properties in Southwold are second homes and the full-time population is now below 1,000, putting extra strain on local services.

Earlier this year, councillors unveiled plans to try and stem the number of second homes in the town and make more affordable housing possible for local people.

A spokesperson for estate agent Flick & Son, which is selling the hut, said: ‘I am sure it will go very quickly.

‘There is a high demand for huts and we expect there will be a bidding war in the end.’

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EU will retaliate to any unilateral action on NI protocol, Coveney warns

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British prime minister Boris Johnson has been warned of the consequences of unilateral action on the Northern Ireland protocol, including the prospect of “retaliatory” action from Europe.

On the eve of Mr Johnson’s visit to Belfast, the Government and Sinn Féin said moves to disapply parts of the protocol risked damaging east-west relations.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney spoke of a “landing zone” for negotiations and indicated that the European Union was willing to make adjustments through “partnership and dialogue” due to what he said were “legitimate concerns” within unionism about the operation of the protocol.

However, he also said that if London moved unilaterally it would make matters “significantly worse” and that “then the EU will be forced to respond to that with some form of retaliatory action”.

Mr Coveney said it was not “helpful” to expand on what form that might take, but that a response “would be very negative”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said “there is a real and urgent obligation now” for Britain to engage with the European Commission “in a real and professional way to resolve issues that have been raised”.

Powersharing

Ahead of talks between Mr Johnson and Northern Irish political leaders aimed at restoring powersharing at Stormont, Sinn Féin’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill said unilateral action would “represent an appalling attack on the international rule of law”.

“Only through joint agreement with the EU can solutions to problems or concerns be resolved,” she said.

“I will be telling Boris Johnson that unilateral action deepens political instability and economic uncertainty and must not happen.”

Ms O’Neill is to meet Mr Martin in at Government Buildings Dublin on Monday morning ahead of her meeting with Mr Johnson.

Mr Coveney travels today to Brussels for a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council and will later speak with EU negotiator Maros Sefcovic and British foreign secretary Liz Truss, who is expected to announce legislation on Tuesday that will unilaterally override central elements of the protocol.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Coveney said Mr Sefcovic is open to making “significant progress” on the protocol.

“I believe there are solutions we could pursue and we can agree relatively quickly if there was an attitude to do so on both sides,” he said. “But we need a partner in London to do that, not a partner that is making threats of unilateral action.”

Envoy

The Minister also said he believes it is “likely” that US president Joe Biden will appoint an envoy to the North, saying the US administration is “extremely interested” in marking 25 years since the Belfast Agreement next year with “its institutions intact and functioning as they need to be”.

Mr Johnson is expected to affirm his commitment to the agreement and assert that he is not seeking to scrap the protocol. But Downing Street said ahead of his meetings with the North’s party leaders that he will not drop his government’s threat to unilaterally disapply parts of the protocol, which Mr Johnson agreed with the EU in 2019.

Downing Street said in a statement that Mr Johnson will tell party leaders that the door will always be open to “genuine dialogue” but that “there will be a necessity to act” and protect the Belfast Agreement if the EU does not change its position.

Writing in Monday’s Belfast Telegraph, Mr Johnson outlined that the protocol “has not been adapted to reflect the realities of the [Trade and Co-operation Agreement]”. He will signal that there is “without question a sensible landing spot in which everyone’s interests are protected”. However, he said that if the EU’s position does not change, “there will be a necessity to act”.


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CPEG acquires Geneva office property for €99m (CH)

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Propreal Capital Partners has completed the disposal of a prime office property in the heart of Geneva for €99m after successfully negotiating a new long-term lease with government-backed Geneva University Hospitals. The buyer is Caisse de Prévoyance de l’Etat de Genève (CPEG), the State of Geneva’s Pension Fund. The proceeds of the deal raise Propreal’s war chest to €300m of available capital to place in pan-European assets.

 

The 7,070m² office space was previously occupied by financial group BNP Paribas which terminated its contract prior to the lease break in November 2026. Located on Boulevard de la Tour 8, the building forms part of a larger condominium (propriété par étages, or PPE), which also includes apartments from the sixth to the ninth floors and was wholly owned by CPEG.

 

Yves de Kerdanet, Founder and CEO Propreal Capital Partners said: “Our successful restructuring of the existing lease with BNP Paribas brought a government-backed tenant on board for a 20-year term in an office market that is still feeling the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. This paved the way for a deal with CPEG to acquire the property and terminate the co-ownership structure. Altogether this transaction has helped to unlock substantial investment value.”

 

The office property also comprises 252m² of storage area and 48 parking spaces. The new tenant will relocate parts of its administrative facilities to the building following refurbishment works due to be completed in the course of 2022.

 

Marcus Siggelow, Head of Asset Management at Propreal Capital Partners said: We had an opportunity to restructure the existing lease and negotiate a new government-backed lease for a 20-year term with the Geneva University Hospitals. This value-enhancing leasing agreement illustrates the quality of the location and the building and we’re now on the lookout for further opportunities to expand our portfolio across pan-European markets. The funds generated from this disposal will enable us to place more capital in other prime pan-European assets.”

 

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