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State pension delays: We continue to hear from readers about being fobbed off and given misleading information by DWP staff

State pension delays: We continue to hear from readers about being fobbed off and given misleading information by DWP staff

State pension chaos at the Department of Work and Pensions has led to one widow, 82, waiting more than a year for her money and ending up being owed £75,500, This is Money can reveal.

A service meltdown has seen pensioners face phone logjams, empty promises of help by staff when they do get through, and in the worst cases hardship or hunger while trying to get payments started. 

The problems were first brought to light by our investigation at the start of September 2021

Parveen Adams found out after being widowed in autumn 2020 that her late husband had not claimed his state pension.

The retired lecturer and her family struggled for more than a year to sort this out, including making a formal complaint that went ignored.

Within days of This is Money raising her case we were told she was due a staggering backpayment of tens of thousands of pounds, or a significant rise in future weekly payments, though the latter would be be offset by her husband’s contracting out record.

Meanwhile, we have continued to hear from readers who are furious at being repeatedly fobbed off and misled by DWP staff over delays to their state pension.

‘In what appears to be a common problem within the Government, I have not been told the truth and just been fed false promises,’ says a retired civil servant, who turned 66 in April 2021 and was still waiting for his pension this January.

‘My experience has shown that the helpline is nothing of the sort, can only provide answers to the most basic of queries and their main task appears to act as a buffer to the people who can solve problems and make decisions.’

A retired nurse, who was 66 in November and lives in the US, was informed by the DWP before Christmas she might have to wait another half a year for her state pension.

She says: ‘Any claims that have been made in the House of Commons about issues being “resolved” are downright lies.’

>>>Are you still waiting for your state pension NOW? Find out what to do below 

Pensions Minister Guy Opperman previously said normal service would resume by the end of October.

He blamed state pension delays on the pandemic and ‘staffing issues which have now been rectified’, and said hundreds of additional staff would be redeployed.

We asked the DWP to respond to our readers’ accusations that Mr Opperman has broken his promise, and that DWP staff are misleading people who ring up about callbacks that don’t happen and escalation of their cases. 

A spokesperson says: ‘We are committed to delivering an excellent level of service and ensuring the right outcome for our customers. The Department is continuously learning and improving from situations where errors happen.’

Regarding the individual complaints we highlight today, the spokesperson says: ‘All of these cases have now been resolved and we are sorry for any inconvenience caused.

These delays are completely unacceptable. Ministers said they had solved this problem in the autumn and they quite clearly haven’t

Matt Rodda, Shadow Pensions Minister

‘There were various reasons for these claims not being processed, some of which were beyond our control.’

The DWP is considering whether to refer them to its team which decides on compensation. 

Meanwhile, the DWP maintains that anyone making a claim today should not experience delays, and it notes some international state pension claims may take longer than UK claims.

Former Pensions Minister and This is Money columnist Steve Webb, who is now a partner at LCP, says: ‘We are increasingly finding that unless cases are completely standard or “vanilla”, DWP is taking an extremely long time to deal with them.’

Regarding the wait Ms Adams faced to resolve her and her late husband’s pensions, he adds: ‘In this case a family was owed a fortune in the form of a lump sum for a state pension that was never claimed, yet they had to battle for months to get someone to process their claim properly.

‘DWP needs to increase the capacity of its state pension claims department to make sure that claims like this are handled swiftly and efficiently.’

Shadow Pensions Minister Matt Rodda says: ‘People who have worked hard and contributed all their lives have every right to expect their pension to be paid on time, when they retire.

‘To make matters worse, the delays are not only completely unfair, they are causing very real hardship.

‘To be quite frank, these delays are completely unacceptable. Ministers said they had solved this problem in the autumn and they quite clearly haven’t. The Government must get a grip on this issue and treat pensioners with the respect they deserve.”

‘What is the point of taxpayers paying for helplines, call centres or response services, if the public do not receive the help they need and are left for months trying to get answers or waiting for call-backs and answers 

Ros Altmann, former Pensions Minister 

Former Pensions Minister and campaigner Ros Altmann says: ‘These cases are most concerning, because it seems the promises that the state pension delays had all been fixed are not correct.

‘Of course there will be problems with any system involving large numbers of members of the public, an overly complex pension system and call centres which seem to have operators who either have insufficient knowledge to help callers, or insufficient authority to ensure others respond and follow up on promised call-backs.

‘This is surely something that needs to be addressed urgently. The public has a right to expect much better service than this, especially when it relates to their state pension, which many will be wholly reliant on for their later life income.

‘If they expect their pension to start on time and it does not arrive, this can cause serious hardship.’

Lady Altmann adds: ‘The DWP has contracts with outside call centres and also has its own staff who handle customer phone inquiries, letters or emails.

‘If those paid to respond to the public are not performing adequately, surely there should be penalties on them and redress offered to people who are being treated so badly.

‘What is the point of taxpayers paying for helplines, call centres or response services, if the public do not receive the help they need and are left for months trying to get answers or waiting for call-backs and answers.

‘It is really shocking. It seems that too often the only way to achieve progress is when Peers, MPs and the media intervene directly, which is clearly not right.’ 

‘Trying to ring them is impossible’: Widow and her family struggle for A YEAR to get pension

Parveen Adams, 82, ended up being owed £75,500 after the DWP failed to sort out her late husband’s state pension for over a year.

She could opt to receive £154 a week extra for the rest of her life instead, and although this will be offset by a separate reduction in her own payments, she will be better off overall. See the box below.

Why do state pensions sometimes go DOWN after a spouse dies? 

When a late spouse was ‘contracted out’ of the second state pension and has a large work pension, a surviving partner’s state pension is sometimes reduced to take account of that.

This is Money’s pension columnnist Steve Webb explains here.  

The former lecturer, who is a writer on art and lives in London, lost her 72-year-old husband in September 2020.

When her brother, Darius Daver, was helping to sort out the estate he realised his late brother-in-law had never claimed a state pension.

Mr Daver says he spent half a day and made four phone calls to the DWP that November, and eventually got through to someone helpful.

He was told a separate department would investigate, his sister would receive an offer of a lump sum or additional pension for herself together with a widow’s pension, and this would take up to 10 weeks.

Mr Daver sent a letter by registered delivery that December giving the details asked for and enclosing a marriage certificate, which was later returned.

However, over the year that followed, the marriage certificate was requested and returned again, and a form sent out and returned, but no action was taken to sort out Ms Adams’s state pension.

She made a formal complaint by letter last November but received no response, then rang in December and was told she would get a call back within 10 days but this did not happen.

He brother then turned to This is Money for help, saying: ‘It’s now over a year since the matter was first raised and in the circumstances seems unkind and thoughtless.’

 A family was owed a fortune in the form of a lump sum for a state pension that was never claimed, yet they had to battle for months to get someone to process their claim properly

Steve Webb, former Pensions Minister 

He told us: ‘The biggest worry is there has been no response from anyone. It took months to get a form and then nothing. Then a formal letter to the complaints department, nothing. Trying to ring them is impossible.’

He says that luckily his sister is not short of money, but adds: ‘Some people must be desperate.’

After our intervention, the DWP initially wrote to Ms Adams about the reduction in her state pension – for the reason explained in the box above – rather than ring her with an apology and a full explanation of her options regarding a lump sum or an increased weekly payment.

She was forced to call, and fail to get through, then email only to be told to call again, in a further delay she told us was making her ill. 

This is Money had to chase up the DWP a second time to get the situation resolved.

The DWP subsequently told us that it would not seek to recover overpayments worth £2,700 which Ms Adams received between September 2020 and now. 

‘They haven’t been upfront with me’: Call centre staff are just a buffer and fail to help

Roger Harrison turned 66 last April but was still waiting for his state pension nine months later despite repeated calls to the DWP.

He didn’t receive the usual letter people get sent just before state pension age, but rang to request a claim form the day after his birthday and submitted it in early May.

He was told in June his form had been completed correctly and no further information was needed – a message that turned out to be wrong, but which he was not informed of during his calls in August, September, October and November.

Instead DWP staff kept saying that he would receive a call back within two weeks, but this did not happen until November.

On that occasion, he says: ‘I called again to be initially told my claim had not been received but after explaining my previous calls the form was eventually located.

‘A supervisor did return my call the following day but was unable to offer any reason as to the delay, identify any problem or be in a position able to expedite my claim.’

After another subsequent broken promise of a call back within two weeks and an escalation of his case, Mr Harrison says he was on the verge of making another ‘probably fruitless’ call to the DWP in December.

Instead, when he read This is Money’s last story about state pension delays he decided to contact us and his MP, Sajid Javid, who also agreed to help him. 

Mr Harrison, who lives in Worcestershire, told us: ‘I had planned my retirement, after 42 years of public service, to take into account my state pension and although I do have my occupational pension, I find I am increasingly having to use my savings to maintain the standard of living I had hoped for.’

He added of his treatment by DWP staff: ‘I am frustrated. They haven’t been upfront with me. They keep fobbing me off by saying they will send an email and promising to phone me back in two weeks, and afterwards nothing.’

After This is Money raised his case with the DWP, a staff member called Mr Harrison to say he had made an error in his National Insurance number on his claim form, and there was a discrepancy in his date of birth on the system.

He questions why this was never picked up during his many phone calls, and tells us: ‘The conclusion I draw from the “explanation” I have been given is that without the intervention of yourself and Sajid Javid I would not have been able to speak to anyone who approves applications and would still be in limbo over my claim.’

Mr Harrison has been paid arrears of around £5,550 and now started getting his state pension. He says: ‘I hate to think of the stress and strain this would have caused someone who was reliant on receiving the pension for day to day living.’

Claims backlog NOT resolved: Retired nurse says ‘denial of the facts is outrageous and disrespectful’

Deborah Thelwell turned 66 in November, so was appalled to be told the following month that she might have to wait another half a year for her state pension.

She does not have an MP because she lives in the US, so she emailed Pensions Minister Guy Opperman’s office direct to say this was ‘unacceptable’.

Deborah Thelwell: 'I was widowed in 2012, my late husband died at age 57, so he will never see his pension'

Deborah Thelwell: ‘I was widowed in 2012, my late husband died at age 57, so he will never see his pension’

Mrs Thelwell wrote to him: ‘I will not belabour the point that I am one of the unfortunate women who was not informed of the increase to age 66 until 20 months prior to my 60th birthday.

‘So in addition to the six years I have already waited I am now forced to wait even longer. There is clearly no thought given to one’s personal financial situation during this wait.

‘I would also appreciate the cessation of some members of the House [of Commons] continuing to insist that the backlog of claims is now resolved – clearly it is not.

‘This continued denial of the facts is outrageous and disrespectful to the people who you are actually employed to represent. Please do your job and ensure that the departments for which you are responsible do theirs efficiently.’

Mrs Thelwell told This is Money that a six-month state pension delay, on top of a six-year wait, was ‘adding insult to injury’.

She says: ‘I am not trying to make out that I am some kind of impoverished wretch who is asking for a handout. I have a good life, am in good health and merely want what is (and has been) due to me.

‘I know that there are millions of women in a far worse situation than I, and it is also for them that attention needs to be brought to this issue.

‘I was widowed in 2012, my late husband died at age 57, so he will never see his pension. There are thousands of men and women like him.’

Mrs Thelwell has received arrears of £885.18 and started getting her state pension. The DWP says it regrets there was a delay in processing her claim. 

‘I have no faith in them’: DWP staff gave conflicting info during six-month wait for pension

Brenda Keneghan, who lives in Ireland, was 66 last July but her state pension claim was still stalled in January.

She applied through the Irish Department for Social Protection as she was advised to do this in the country where she was resident.

STEVE WEBB ANSWERS YOUR PENSION QUESTIONS

       

It told her that it had passed on her details in July, and it was up to the DWP to process her UK state pension, but she got nowhere when trying to raise it with staff at the international pension centre.

She also contacted Emily Thornberry MP, who represents the London constituency she previously lived in, and who agreed to help.

Mrs Keneghan, a former museum staff member, told us she has a small work pension but she was dependent on her husband without her state pension.

‘This situation is causing me severe hardship,’ she went on.

‘I was depending on my pension for day to day living. I don’t understand how they have accessed my records and given them to the department in Ireland without having sorted out my pension full stop.’

She says DWP staff gave her conflicting information, and kept telling her don’t worry you will get your pension. She adds: ‘I have no faith in them.’

After This is Money intervened, Mrs Keneghan received arrears of around £3,950 and started getting her pension. The DWP says it regrets there was a delay in processing her claim.

The DWP adds that some international state pension claims may take longer than UK ones. Readers are emailing This is Money from overseas to say they have received messages from the DWP that delays are running at 24 weeks, or sometimes at 26 weeks.

State pension delayed? What should you do

The state pension is paid four weeks in arrears when it first begins, but delays have stretched for a further month and sometimes several more.

‘Anyone who has faced an unreasonable wait should definitely escalate the issue via their MP who should take it up with the DWP,’ said former Pensions Minister Steve Webb.

Another former Pensions Minister, Ros Altmann, advised the same, saying: ‘MPs should be able to represent their pensioner constituents and help sort out these kinds of problems.’

The Government will give an advance on a first state pension payment if you have made a claim and are in ‘urgent financial need’.

Details of how to apply are here, but there is no information on what criteria it uses to make decisions. 

The DWP said: ‘We have procedures in place to escalate cases where a customer tells us they are in financial hardship and their state pension entitlement date is past due.

‘Customer contacts of this nature are typically cleared and urgent payments issued the same day. The Pension Service phone number is 0800 731 0469.’

If you are having trouble getting payments started, write to This is Money and tell your story at pensionquestions@thisismoney.co.uk. 

Please put PENSION DELAY in the subject line. We will not be able to respond to everyone, and you may also want to seek help from your MP.

TOP SIPPS FOR DIY PENSION INVESTORS

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Keeping Up With The Aristocrats offered viewers a glimpse behind closed doors at some of England’s grandest stately homes, but not everyone was impressed with what they found.  

Some viewers complained about the decision to air a programme about the plight of the upper-class trying to keep their country piles afloat at a time when many families are struggling to pay the bills.

The first episode, which aired last night, showed Princess Olga Romanoff complaining about how difficult it is to maintain 13th-century Provender House, in Kent, and Lord Gerard and Lady Emma Fitzalan-Howard of the 126-room Carlton Towers, North Yorkshire, insist they’re ‘not rich at all’. 

One unimpressed viewer wrote: ‘With people having to choose between heating and eating, is this programme currently appropriate? #keepingupwiththearistocrats.’

Family legacy: When Gerald's elder brother Edward inherited Arundel Castle in Sussex, as well as 126-room Carlton Towers in North Yorkshire, he gave the latter to Gerald, who's lived there since 1991. Pictured, Lord Gerald with Lady Emma, his wife of 30 years

Family legacy: When Gerald’s elder brother Edward inherited Arundel Castle in Sussex, as well as 126-room Carlton Towers in North Yorkshire, he gave the latter to Gerald, who’s lived there since 1991. Pictured, Lord Gerald with Lady Emma, his wife of 30 years

The first episode of Keeping Up With The Aristocrats showed Lord and Lady Fitzalan-Howard of the 126-room Carlton Towers, North Yorkshire, pictured, insist they're 'not rich at all'

The first episode of Keeping Up With The Aristocrats showed Lord and Lady Fitzalan-Howard of the 126-room Carlton Towers, North Yorkshire, pictured, insist they’re ‘not rich at all’

Expensive: The stately home, which sits in 1,000 acres, comes with a clock tower, three state rooms and a Venetian Drawing Room. While there are plenty of benefits to having that much space, there are also astronomical costs. The heating bill alone sets them back £70,000 a year

Expensive: The stately home, which sits in 1,000 acres, comes with a clock tower, three state rooms and a Venetian Drawing Room. While there are plenty of benefits to having that much space, there are also astronomical costs. The heating bill alone sets them back £70,000 a year

Reality check! Viewers questioned the decision to air the programme at a time when so many families are struggling with increased food bills and gas price hikes

Reality check! Viewers questioned the decision to air the programme at a time when so many families are struggling with increased food bills and gas price hikes 

Another posted: ‘When bills are rocketing, poverty increasing and people struggling, see fit to show is how the other half live #keepingupwiththearistocrats.’

A third added: ‘Why do we need this on our screens. #KeepingUpWithTheAristocrats.’

However others praised the ‘marvellous’ toffs and loved their ‘potty mouths’ and down-to-earth nature. 

One tweeted: ‘Watching #KeepingUpWithTheAristocrats and it strikes me that #PrincessOlga would be a lot of fun! She comes across as very down to earth and likes a bloody good laugh! #PottyMouth #PrincessOlgaAndreevnaRomanoff.’

Another added: ‘#keepingupwiththearistocrats I love these posh people and accents.’ 

When Gerald’s elder brother Edward inherited Arundel Castle in Sussex, as well as 126-room Carlton Towers in North Yorkshire, he gave the latter to Gerald, who’s lived there since 1991. 

Lord Gerald is also related to royalty – he’s a descendant of Anne Boleyn. 

The stately home, which sits in 1,000 acres, comes with a clock tower, three state rooms and a Venetian Drawing Room. 

‘Having a stately home is a privilege,’ Lady Emma Fitzalan-Howard said, ‘but it comes with a big emotional price tag.’ It also comes with an actual price tag: the heating bill alone costs £70,000 a year.  

‘People think that Gerald and I are very rich but the fact is we are absolutely not very rich,’ his wife, Lady Emma, insisted. 

Flogging their wares: Lord and Lady Fitzalan-Howard tried to sell their own-brand sparkling wine on last night's episode, in another bid to bring in more cash to the costly estate

Flogging their wares: Lord and Lady Fitzalan-Howard tried to sell their own-brand sparkling wine on last night’s episode, in another bid to bring in more cash to the costly estate

Fortunately Lord Gerarld is industrious and is always dreaming up new ways of earning money. ‘I’m always full of ideas, some good and some completely rubbish,’ confessed Gerald, 59. 

To bring in money the couple host weddings at Carlton Towers, which has 17 bedrooms for paying guests and six for the family. 

But Gerald is also teaching himself to smoke fish and meat in a shed he bought from Homebase, which he eventually hopes to serve to guests and he’s also planted a vineyard so the estate can produce its own sparkling wine.

The couple were thrilled when they put the stopper in the first bottle of sparkling and travel to Renishaw Hall to share it with the Sitwells.   

Russian royalty: Princess Olga Romanoff (pictured) is a member of the Russian upper-classes, whose great-uncle Tsar Nicholas II was murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918. However she needs money to run her family's estate and said she's already spent £2million on maintenance

Russian royalty: Princess Olga Romanoff (pictured) is a member of the Russian upper-classes, whose great-uncle Tsar Nicholas II was murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918. However she needs money to run her family’s estate and said she’s already spent £2million on maintenance 

Putting herself to work: Olga remembers a time when there was a large staff to keep the estate running. 'I love the garden but I loved it more when we had people doing all this,' she said, mowing the lawn, 'and I could just lie in the garden'

Putting herself to work: Olga remembers a time when there was a large staff to keep the estate running. ‘I love the garden but I loved it more when we had people doing all this,’ she said, mowing the lawn, ‘and I could just lie in the garden’ 

Money pit: Twice married and twice divorced, Princess Olga, 71, lives at the medieval Provender House near Faversham, which she inherited 21 years ago upon the death of her mother (her father, Nicholas II's nephew, had escaped to England)

Money pit: Twice married and twice divorced, Princess Olga, 71, lives at the medieval Provender House near Faversham, which she inherited 21 years ago upon the death of her mother (her father, Nicholas II’s nephew, had escaped to England)

However others praised the 'marvellous' toffs and loved their 'potty mouths' and down-to-earth nature

However others praised the ‘marvellous’ toffs and loved their ‘potty mouths’ and down-to-earth nature

‘We made some really good wine,’ Lord Gerald said after flogging their bubbles at a local food and drink market, ‘and that’s very exciting. I think my Dad would be sitting up there, smiling.’  

Other toffs in the show include Alexandra Sitwell, 63, who inherited the 17th-century Grade I-listed Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire where her family has lived since 1625.   

Her husband of 30 years, Rick, is a Bahamas-born businessman and former chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers who has thrown himself into running the 500-acre estate, which boasts a Italianate garden and a vineyard with wine stocked in supermarkets.  

Despite having a team of staff to help run the estate, Alexandra and Rick say it’s a tough business. 

Money-spinner: Lord Ivar Mountbatten, 58, a cousin of both the Queen and Prince Philip, left, appeared on the programme with his husband James (right). Cameras followed as they prepared to put on a pop-up restaurant with French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli (left)

Money-spinner: Lord Ivar Mountbatten, 58, a cousin of both the Queen and Prince Philip, left, appeared on the programme with his husband James (right). Cameras followed as they prepared to put on a pop-up restaurant with French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli (left)

Saving money: Lord Ivar prefers to clean the 100 windows at Bridwell Park (pictured) himself in order to save some cash

Saving money: Lord Ivar prefers to clean the 100 windows at Bridwell Park (pictured) himself in order to save some cash 

Royal relatives: Lord Ivar is a relative of both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh through his father, George Mountbatten

Royal relatives: Lord Ivar is a relative of both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh through his father, George Mountbatten

They have four gardeners, two housekeepers and a butler, David, who jokes he got into the business because of his father. 

He said: ‘My father was a pig farmer and then became a butler but he says it’s the same thing: you feed them when they’re hungry and you clean up their mess!’ 

Meanwhile Princess Olga Romanoff, whose great-uncle Tsar Nicholas II was murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918, was quick to dismiss the general perception of her moneyed class.  

‘I’m not your ordinary princess,’ she said. ‘At home you’ll find me shovelling s***, sadly, not eating caviar.’

Twice married and twice divorced, Princess Olga, 71, lives at the medieval Provender House near Faversham, which she inherited 21 years ago upon the death of her mother (her father, Nicholas II’s nephew, had escaped to England). By then the money had run out and it was a ramshackle wreck.

Touring the grounds: Alexandra Sitwell and her husband Rick strolled through Renishaw Hall, in Derbyshire, in their dressing gowns and pyjamas

Touring the grounds: Alexandra Sitwell and her husband Rick strolled through Renishaw Hall, in Derbyshire, in their dressing gowns and pyjamas

Sprawling: The 500-acre estate boasts a Italianate garden and a vineyard with wine stocked in supermarkets

Sprawling: The 500-acre estate boasts a Italianate garden and a vineyard with wine stocked in supermarkets

‘When I was a child, it seemed like there was a bottomless pit of money,’ she recalled. ‘And indeed there was until my grandmother died. Then my mother, poor woman, got into deep s**t and the debts just rose and rose and rose.

‘I inherited the house and I realised the house was literally falling down. ‘It’s still falling down, £2.5 million later,’ said Olga dryly. ‘I had to sell some of our Russian heirlooms to fund it.’

The show revealed she generates income by renting out a wing of the house via Airbnb and by giving £14-a-head tours to busloads of tourists.

Cameras followed Olga as she gives a tour to one group, making jokes about her late ancestor’s busts and pointing out a painting made for her by a late ex-boyfriend.  

Yet she also remembered a time when there was a large staff to keep the estate running.

‘I love the garden but I loved it more when we had people doing all this,’ she says, running a lawnmower across the grass, ‘and I could just lie in the garden’.   

Her candour made her a hit with viewers, who said they wanted to invite her over for dinner. 

Staff: Unlike some of the other aristos, Alexandra and Rick have the benefit of a team of permanent staff members, including four gardeners, two housekeepers and a butler, David, pictured, who jokes he got into the business because of his father.

Staff: Unlike some of the other aristos, Alexandra and Rick have the benefit of a team of permanent staff members, including four gardeners, two housekeepers and a butler, David, pictured, who jokes he got into the business because of his father.

Also appearing in the series is Lord Ivar Mountbatten, 58, a cousin of both the Queen and Prince Philip who cleans the 100-plus windows of his mansion, 18th-century Bridwell Park in Devon, himself. 

‘These places don’t run themselves and I’m the sort of person that I’d rather do something myself than pay for them to do it,’ Lord Ivar explained. 

The divorced father-of-three made history four years ago when he became the first British royal to enter into a same-sex marriage, with airline steward James Coyle. 

James explained: ‘Sometimes we’re at a drinks party and some old duffer will say, “who are you” and I’ll say “I’m Ivar’s partner” and they’ll say, “what business are you in?” and then you have to say, “the gay business”.’

The couple remain close with Ivar’s ex-wife Lady Penny, who even gave Ivar away on his wedding day. Their daughters Ella, Alix and Luli get along famously with their new stepfather. 

‘I lived with a woman for 17 years then all of a sudden not having a woman on my side, but a man, it was quite a big step,’ admitted Ivar, adding: ‘We have a big, blended family.’

Bridwell Park comes with an ornamental lake, a Gothic chapel and a deer park, which, while beautiful to look at, are expensive to maintain. 

In the series, Lord Ivar and James try to earn a crust by organising a pop-up restaurant at the house in collaboration with French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, charging guests £165 a head for an exclusive dinner. 

It is just one of the ideas Ivar and James has to try and make money to cover the £100,000-a-year it takes to keep the house running. They also have a cafe on site. 

‘A restaurant seems a natural progression from the cafe,’ James said, as they prepared to welcome Jean-Christophe to the estate. 

The chef puts the duo to work, making Lord Ivar clean the windows of the dining room twice and requiring three tablecloths on each table so it is soft to the touch. 

But all the hard work is worth it when the evening – attended by the rest of the aristos featured in the show – goes off without a hitch. 

‘After tonight, I think we’ve demonstrated that we can do it, we can pull it off,’ James said. ‘I would do it again… Just not tomorrow.’  

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Unilever sinks as critics slam its £50bn bid for GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer healthcare arm… but shares in the pharma giant rally










Unilever was forced onto the defensive after its plans to buy GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer healthcare division sent shares tumbling 7 per cent.

In a hastily convened press conference yesterday morning, the consumer group’s boss Alan Jope said the GSK business ‘would be a strong strategic fit’ his firm.

He also insisted a deal would be ‘attractive’ to shareholders having seen three bids turned down by the pharmaceuticals giant, including the most recent offer of £50billion.

In a hastily convened press conference, Unilever chief executive Alan Jope (pictured) said the GSK business ‘would be a strong strategic fit’ for Unilever

But Unilever shares fell 274.5p to 3662p, wiping £7billion off the £100billion company to leave it worth £93billion.

GSK’s consumer brands include Aquafresh, Sensodyne, Advil, Panadol, Chapstick and Centrum while Unilever owns Dove, Domestos, Marmite, Ben & Jerry’s and Hellmann’s.

Dismissing Unilever’s latest £50billion approach over the weekend, GSK said it ‘fundamentally undervalued’ the business, which is 32 per cent owned by Pfizer.

Analysts believe that Unilever will have to raise its bid to £60billion to secure a deal – a price tag many fear is too high.

Jobs at risk in shake-up 

Unilever will announce a ‘major initiative’ to streamline the business this month – raising fears over jobs.

Chief executive Alan Jope said he will scrap the company’s clunky operating model and make it more ‘simple’ and ‘agile’ to boost growth.

He did not rule out job losses when asked about the restructuring, saying only that the changes were ‘focused on growth, not cost’.

An analyst said the changes would be an opportunity to ‘reduce headcount’ but would ‘not necessarily’ mean staff would be cut.

The analyst said: ‘The idea is for them to be more agile and more relevant to local consumers and trends.

‘It could also be an opportunity to reduce headcount, but not necessarily.’

Jope said: ‘This is not driven by cost.

‘We are going to announce later this month a simple model, which is designed for speed and agility.’

Unilever has 149,000 staff worldwide.

Ends

 

‘The market has given a thumbs down,’ said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

‘The negative share price reaction probably reflects investors’ fears that Unilever is going to come back with a higher offer and potentially pay too much.’

Such a takeover would be one of the biggest completed in London, and the biggest in the world since the outbreak of Covid.

But it would likely push Unilever’s debt pile from the current level of £19billion to well over £55billion.

Jope said attempts to buy GSK’s consumer arm were part of his strategy to pivot away from food and instead focus on faster-growing health, beauty and hygiene brands.

This will see Unilever get rid of poor performing food brands and could see Marmite sold.

Unilever could even offload its whole food and refreshments arm, though Jope stressed brands such as Hellmann’s and Ben & Jerry’s were growing well in a sign they could remain part of the company’s future.

The money from sales will be used to fund takeovers of health, hygiene and beauty brands which Unilever hopes will help turn around years of slow sales growth.

The strategy comes after recent moves by Unilever to slim down its 400-plus brand portfolio into a smaller group of market leaders.

In December 2017 it sold its spreads business which included Flora butter, and in November last year it sold its tea business including PG Tips.

But critics have called on Unilever to ‘fix its own business’ rather than take over others.

The company was last week slammed by leading investor Terry Smith who said it has ‘lost the plot’ over its focus on social issues.

Laying out his plans, Jope said GSK was not ‘the only option’ and if a deal does not go through he would pursue other consumer healthcare brands.

He said he would only pursue takeovers which are ‘value creating’ and they would come on top of ‘improving the performance of Unilever’s existing business’.

But his defence of Unilever’s interest in GSK failed to win over doubters in the City.

Bruno Monteyne, senior analyst at Bernstein, said it was ‘mind-blowing’ that Unilever thought such a big deal would benefit shareholders.

Monteyne also said the fact Unilever is planning further deals if it does not buy GSK consumer health is ‘really worrying’.

He said: ‘They have lost touch with reality with what investors think is credible and what the industry has known to work and not work.

‘Even of people who like Unilever shares, not a single one thinks this kind of deal the size of GSK makes any sense. It’s way too big. 

There is plenty of academic research and anecdotal evidence that mega big deals extremely rarely work, why does Unilever think with their track record in the industry they will buck the trends?’

Investors bet on Glaxo bidding war 

GlaxoSmithKline shares rose as investors bet on a bidding war for its consumer healthcare arm.

GSK boss Emma Walmsley is spinning off the division – whose brands include Aquafresh, Advil and Chapstick – into a standalone company listed on the stock market in London.

She will then focus on developing cutting edge pharmaceuticals at GSK while keeping a 20 per cent stake in the new consumer business.

But Unilever looks set to have sparked a bidding war having already seen three offers rejected, including one worth £50billion.

Other consumer health firms are thought to be looking at making rival bids while private equity is also understood to be circling.

Advent International, CVC Capital Partners and KKR have all shown an interest in the firm.

The prospect of a bidding war sent GSK shares up 4.1 per cent, or 66.8p, to 1707.8p, valuing the whole company at £86billion.

Walmsley must decide whether to press ahead with her original plan to demerge and list the new business, or hold out for a higher offer from Unilever or another bidder.

It is thought a price tag of £60billion could tempt GSK to sell.

Walmsley has faced pressure from activist investors Elliott Management, which wants a full sale of the business.

But Richard Buxton, a fund manager at long-term GSK investor Jupiter Asset Management, said she should fend off pressure from activists looking for ‘a quick buck’.

He said: ‘GSK investors should play the long game.’

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Peers slam Britcoin plan, claiming there is no case for creating a UK digital currency










Peers have slammed plans for Britcoin, claiming there is no case for creating a digital currency.

The House of Lords economic affairs committee said the UK’s plans for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) – dubbed Britcoin – could present challenges to privacy and financial stability.

The Treasury and the Bank of England have been exploring a digital alternative to physical cash similar to bitcoin, but backed by the pound and supervised by the Bank.

Panned: The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee said the UK’s plans for a central bank digital currency – dubbed Britcoin – could present challenges to privacy and financial stability

Panned: The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee said the UK’s plans for a central bank digital currency – dubbed Britcoin – could present challenges to privacy and financial stability

It would eliminate bank accounts, as all transactions would be recorded on an unchangeable ledger.

Supporters say it would make payments cheaper and quicker, and slash banking costs. 

Critics worry it could make mortgages and other loans more expensive. 

Witnesses included Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey.

Committee chairman Lord Forsyth said: ‘We found the potential benefits of a digital pound, as set out by the Bank, to be overstated or achievable through less risky alternatives.’ 

The Bank is due to consult on the idea this year and will make a decision based on responses.

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