BANKS PLAN TO SELL OFF A THOUSAND OF THEIR ATMs - Banks are engaged in a massive sell-off of their ATM networks in a move that has raised fears there will be a hike in fees for withdrawing money from the machines. 

Bank of Ireland is selling off a network of 700 ATMs, while AIB is seeking bids for 375 of its cash machines, the Irish Independent has learned. The 1,000-plus cash machines being sold are largely based in retail outlets, and represent more than a quarter of all cash machines in the country. There are currently around 3,000 ATMs owned by banks, and another 750 owned by independent providers. There are worries that rural areas will be the big losers. Consumer groups say companies that own ATMs independently of banks are likely to impose charges and fees for using them. This would be in addition to the fees imposed by banks for withdrawing cash from an ATM. Bank of Ireland charges its customers 25 cent for cash withdrawals, with AIB charging 35 cent unless certain conditions are met to avail of fee-free banking. Ulster Bank has already sold a network of 400 ATMs to US giant Euronet. That company now owns 600 ATM machines here, making it one of the dominant operators in the sector. People in other countries are charged fees of up to €3 every time they want to withdraw cash from independently operated ATMs. Chairman of the Consumers' Association Michael Kilcoyne warned the same was likely to happen here.

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LACK OF TRUST IS BLOCKING SOLUTIONS TO MORTGAGE ARREARS, SAYS HEAD OF STATE'S INSOLVENCY AGENCY - A lack of trust between banks and personal insolvency advisers is blocking attempts to resolve long-term mortgage arrears cases, the State's new insolvency agency chief Michael McNaughton has said. 

Mr McNaughton, who took over as director of the Insolvency Service of Ireland last year, has urged banks and personal insolvency practitioners to be "more collaborative" in their dealings with each other in order to resolve the large post-crisis backlog of insolvent mortgage cases. The former banker, who worked on debt restructuring and insolvency cases at KBC Bank and Ulster Bank, said that it was "very worrying" that there were still 43,000 mortgages in arrears, including almost 28,000 for two years or more, writes the Irish Times. The number of personal insolvency arrangements - formal resolution cases where usually mortgage debt is written down to sustainable levels for borrowers - reached 1,055 in 2019, up 10% on the previous year's figure, he said, but the number being rejected by creditors such as banks, investment funds and so-called vulture funds was still too high. Half of all proposed solutions have a 50% first-time success rate at the initial meeting of creditors where they are proposed and that overall proposed personal insolvency arrangements only have a 60% chance of converting into an agreed arrangement, said Mr McNaughton.

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UK PROPERTY FIRMS SECURES PLANNING PERMISSION TO BUILD HOSTEL ON CORK'S GRAND PARADE - A London property firm has secured planning permission for a new hostel on Cork's Grand Parade. 

Cork City Council has given the go-ahead to Westhill, through an Irish subsidiary Bluescape Limited, to redevelop the former tourist office at 40-42 Grand Parade. The development includes a six-storey extension to provide 246 hostel bed spaces in 48 rooms. The development, called Tourist House, will also include a ground floor bar and a rooftop terrace. The decision adds to a significant number of hotels, hostels, and budget accommodation in the city that are already under construction or awaiting approval, says the Irish Examiner. The Dean Hotel by Clarendon and Bam is set to open this year while the Dalata Group opened a new Maldron hotel on the city’s South Mall in December 2018. However, Westhill says Cork still lags behind other cities and regional towns for hotels and budget accommodation. "Cork has significantly fewer hotels than Galway and only three more than Limerick. In terms of hostel accommodation specifically, the outlook is similar," it added. 

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UK'S NORTHERN RAIL TO BE RENATIONALISED AND SOME BEECHING CLOSURES COULD REOPEN - British Ministers will pledge to reopen closed rail lines in the north this week as the government prepares to renationalise the failed Northern franchise. 

The promise of hundreds of millions in investment to restore some lines axed in the Beeching closures in the early 1960s will come at about the same time as the expected announcement of the termination of the Northern franchise, operated by Arriva, says today's Guardian. Blyth Valley, a former Labour stronghold in the north-east that turned Conservative in the election and presaged the collapse of the "red wall", is likely to be among the first places to benefit from the reopening of passenger services. The decision to renationalise Northern, which the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is due to deliver by Thursday, is likely to be welcomed in the north, but it represents another embarrassing failure of the privatised rail system. Northern politicians and transport bodies said a possible short-term management contract for Arriva - still yet to be officially ruled out by Shapps - would be unacceptable, leaving it almost certain that it will become the second major franchise to be renationalised by the Conservatives in less than two years. The state-owned "operator of last resort", which has run LNER since June 2018, would take over the running of Northern.