84-year-old’s fury at £1,400 pension payback demand

Thomas Howes (84) with some of the letters he has received.''Picture: Sarah Standing (123328-7103)
Thomas Howes (84) with some of the letters he has received.''Picture: Sarah Standing (123328-7103)

Gosport MP welcomes plans on homelessness but admits ‘it’s a significant problem’

Have your say

FOR 19 years Thomas Howes collected his pension in good faith.

But little did he know he was being overpaid £1.41 a week.

Now, almost two decades on, the 84-year-old has been left distraught after being told to repay £1,400.

Mitchells & Butlers Pensions initially demanded he write out a cheque in full.

But the firm later agreed a repayment plan could be arranged, although it hasn’t yet told him over how long.

Mr Howes, of High Mead, Fareham, said: ‘I have a little bit of money saved, only enough to bury me and my wife. I reckon I’ve only got a few years left. I could do without this stress.’

His wife, Rita Howes, 80, added: ‘It is such a worry. We get told our gas bills are going up and now this.

‘How are we supposed to afford this?’

Mr Howes worked as manager of a betting shop in Locks Heath for over 40 years where he took up the pension scheme.

‘They invited staff to join, which I did because I didn’t want to solely rely on the government,’ he said.

Mr Howes moved to Fareham in 1970 and worked full time until he was 68, and part time until he was 82.

Mr Howes says he is upset over the tone of the letters and is yet to receive an apology.

Fareham MP Mark Hoban, who is also a Minister of State in the Department for Work and Pensions, labelled the case ‘outrageous’ and agreed to take it up in the House of Commons.

He said: ‘Regardless of whose error it was, this has gone on for so long. It is just ludicrous for the company to try and reclaim the money.’

Tony Attubato, head of dispute resolution at the Pension Advisory Service, said this kind of error was common.

He said: ‘Unfortunately, even in the best-run schemes, mistakes are made.

‘The pension scheme is entitled to recover the payments. If they were received in good faith and relied upon, it may be possible to limit how much is repaid.’

Mitchells & Butlers blamed the error on a delay from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. A statement said: ‘We are unable to discuss individual cases publicly.

‘However, if Mr Howes contacts the trustees directly they would be happy to discuss any concerns.’