Q. My daughter was recently made redundant, without notice, by Blue Salamander, a shop in Milton Keynes. This was on the day she was due to be paid her monthly wage, therefore she was left with no money. Although the store had been gradually closing its outlets, the decision was a surprise as it came at the end of the day, the few staff in the store were informed and then the premises were locked-up. Within hours the store had been emptied. Since then the company has ceased trading and my daughter has received various documents from BRI of Milton Keynes regarding the company and a form to explain how much wage she was due from the last month of working. Is my daughter likely to see the money she is owed? PH, Milton Keynes.
A. Blue Salamander has gone into creditors’ voluntary liquidation. Under these arrangements, former employees are entitled to claim for arrears of wages, holiday pay owed to date, redundancy pay and pay in lieu of notice. Where the company has insufficient assets to meet these debts a government agency, the Redundancy Payments Office, will recompense the employees, up to a maximum payment of £350 per week. Anything owed above this will go into the pool of payments due by the company to creditors and will only be met if there are sufficient assets left in the company. BRI is handling the liquidation of Blue Salamander. It says that payments are usually made by the Redundancy Payments Office within three to six weeks of them receiving the claim forms. Your daughter’s forms have been submitted.
Q. My wife and I are both retired, approaching 70 years of age and have a small portfolio of investments with a current value of about £120,000. These investments have been managed by an independent financial adviser since I retired in 2001. I am in receipt of a pension as well as both my wife and I receiving state pensions. Our financial adviser has now suggested we transfer our portfolio into a ‘wrap’. As we have no experience of these, we want to know the pros and cons of a wrap. MM, by email.
A. Danny Cox of advisory firm Hargreaves Lansdown says: “The traditional way to buy investments is to go direct to an investment group. If you have ten different holdings in your portfolio, you end up with ten sets of paperwork and have to deal with ten different companies. A wrap account is a service which allows you to hold all your investments with any number of investment companies in one place. A wrap account provides you with one statement covering all your investments, including access to online valuations. A wrap account will make the administration of your portfolio much easier for both you and your IFA and substantially reduce the paperwork. Trading and switching funds is also easier and it may reduce the costs of new investments, since wrap accounts operate a little like wholesalers, buying investments in bulk and passing on the savings to investors. Wrap accounts are sometimes referred to as fund supermarkets. You can normally transfer an existing portfolio onto a wrap account without selling investments, losing any ISA status and without any charges – your IFA should detail what any costs might be. Your IFA should also explain any difference in costs going forward. There are around 80 different wrap accounts and fund supermarkets. Your IFA should be explaining which one he plans to use and why. The best ones offer access to funds, shares, investment trusts, ETFs [exchange traded funds], corporate bonds and gilts, and have both ISA and SIPP accounts. The simplicity of a wrap account or fund supermarket, combined with the online valuations and easy trading, make them very attractive. The only downside is if the charges are higher than you are currently paying.”
Q. I bank with Barclays. On 9 April I wanted to withdraw £250 from my account, so I went to the nearest cash machine that is located in a secure setting, in the Santander branch in Wood Green High Road. At the end of the attempted transaction the screen disclosed it couldn’t complete the transaction and no cash was forthcoming. I was concerned that as the message came at the end of the process that my account may have been debited, despite me not receiving the cash. I told Santander staff of my concern, returned home, went online and checked my Barclays’ current account, which showed that the £250 had been debited. I returned to Santander and reported the problem. By then a maintenance engineer was working on the machine, another customer was complaining and it was clear there was a problem. But the attitude of Santander staff was somewhere between casual and baffled ; there was no apology and I was told to contact my own bank. One of the staff told me the money would be credited to my account the same day, but it in fact took 11 days for the money to be returned to my account. I feel I should be compensated for the time it took me for repeated visits to Santander and Barclays to sort the matter out. I received an email from Santander suggesting I request compensation from Barclays for the problems caused by Santander’s cash machine! If I had been short of cash, being without £250 for 11 days could have been a crisis for me. IC, London.
A. A Santander spokeswoman said: “[The reader] was correctly advised by branch staff: if an ATM fails to dispense cash the customer is required to contact their own bank to confirm if the funds have been deducted from their account and, if so, arrange for their return. In this instance we recognise that [the reader] received disappointing service after the incident. In recognition of any inconvenience this caused him we have issued him a cheque for £30 as a gesture of goodwill.”