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Correspondent’s week

This week by Jo Thornhill, personal finance correspondent, The Mail on SundayThe week starts with a frantic search for a case study, a common Monday morning exercise. This time, it is the tricky issue of the child tax credit. Claimants have been receiving renewal packs and the National Audit Office is due to deliver a report showing that billions have been wasted yet again in maladministration.

According to Revenue and Customs, around six million families claim the benefit but it is proving impossible for me to track down even one and get them to agree to appear in the paper.

I have lunch at the Terrace restaurant in Kensington with Tracy North and Karen Bewick of Abbey. We are the only ones in the restaurant, which is sad because it is a great place.

I head back to the office, hoping the elusive email with the tax credit case study will be miraculously waiting in my inbox. But no joy. The search goes on. After work, Helen Loveless and I head to one of the local pubs near the office to meet Melanie Bien, ex-Independent personal finance editor and now the media relations director at Savills Private Finance.

Mel brings along her finance Jono, who also works for Savills, and we celebrate their recent engagement.

On Tuesday, after a morning of writing and phone calls, Helen, Richard Dyson and I pull on our sportswear to go for a jog around the Serpentine in Hyde Park. We have entered a team in the Standard Chartered 5km race for charity in the City next Thursday so we are doing a bit of last-minute training. I spend most of the run desperately trying to keep up with the pair of them and hoping I won’t see anyone else from the office out on their lunch break while I’m looking all hot and bothered.

In the afternoon, I head over to the House of Commons where pension guru Ros Altmann and the Pensions Action Group, which represents victims of pension scheme wind-ups, are holding a briefing for MPs on the issue. They are hoping to build cross-party support for a judicial review after the Government shamefully refused to accept the findings of the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report into the matter which laid blame firmly at its door.

On Wednesday, my tax credit case study comes through. I interview the volunteer and arrange the photo with our picture desk.

Today is Financial Mail Women’s Forum, a networking event for women in business, which we hold around four times a year. I file my tax credit story and head to Islington where the guest speaker is June Poster, the former model who is now on the board at the Frank Usher fashion group. She talks about her career, including an unsuccessful management buyout attempt – there is even a fashion show although I think the outfit described as “perfect for an evening on the cruise ship” probably is not for me.

I am back in the office by 3.30pm and call members of the Turner and Newall pension scheme in Derbyshire. The Pension Protection Fund is to assess T&N with a view to taking scheme members under its umbrella.

Many reports suggest pensioners will get 90 per cent of their accrued benefits, subject to maximum limits. But after speaking to workers, including one man who retired early and is set to lose up to 70 per cent of his pension if it goes into the PPF, there is a lot more to the issue. The PPF certainly isn’t good news for everyone.

Thursday is a busy day as we aim to get everything on to the page. There is time for a quick run at lunchtime with Helen and Richard. Afterwards the two of them go for a dip in the Serpentine. But I sit it out as the last time I swam there I saw a rat.


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