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Only 400 Threshers stores manage to reopen

Under a third of Threshers' 1,400 stores reopen as off-licences due to shrinking interest in sector.

Less than one-third of drink chain Threshers' 1,400 stores have managed to reopen as off-licences a year after the firm went bust.

Administrators KPMG returned 1,000 of the First Quench stores to landlords as only 400 were sold owing to the shrinking interest in the off-licence sector which has taken a beating from supermarkets.

Richard Fleming, the UK head of restructuring at KPMG, admitted that the standalone off-licence trade model was in decline. The stores were now being operated only by individuals or regional businesses.

First Quench Retailing (FQR), which owned the Threshers, Wine Rack, Victoria Wine, Bottoms Up and Haddows fascia, went bust last year and 6,300 jobs were lost.

FQR still owes huge amounts of money to unsecured creditors. Diageo lost a total of £41m when it collapsed.

SEP Properties, based in West Midlands, bought the Threshers, Bottoms Up, The Local and Victoria Wine brands. Some of the Wine Rack stores are still trading on high streets in the South East.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.