It’s hard to know what’s appropriate to write sometimes when faced with an event that profoundly affects the four nations of the United Kingdom. The death of the Queen has prompted a period of reflection and great sadness for many people. It has also led to a great many questions from readers.
The Times will be covering many of the ongoing issues raised by the cost-of-living crisis and the impact of the Governments proposals regarding energy bills and affordability in the coming days and weeks. It’s vital that people still know what their rights are and how they can find help when faced with financial challenges. [link to newsletter info?] However, this week, I’ll be answering your questions about some of the situations that have arisen since the death of the Queen and the upcoming coronation of King Charles III.
Will I be able to travel to London to pay my respects?
As the Times reported this week, over 750,000 people are expected to descend on the capital in the coming days to pay their respects to the Queen. Some predictions suggest millions of people may choose to attend the commemorations, leading some commentators to declare London will be ‘full’. Crowds have gathered around Buckingham Palace and Green Park and transport problems are already occurring in central London.
Unfortunately, there are already long-established problems on the inter-city trains, with Avanti West Coast running a reduced timetable, while the Rail Delivery Group is warning that all trains to London will be ‘exceptionally busy’ over the next week. Strike action in the coming days has been cancelled, bringing a glimmer of good news for travellers.
If you decide not to travel, you can usually move the date of your booking by paying a fee (up to £10 depending on the operator). If your train is cancelled, you should get a full refund, but don’t assume it will be automatic unless you are told that this will be the case. Check the refund rules on each train operator’s website.
If you’re planning on getting in the car, your problem is twofold. Firstly, roads are expected to be very busy indeed. Expect major road closures in London with huge pressures on the roads that remain open. Secondly, parking will be a nightmare. So think carefully before you set out in a vehicle to visit London. You might want to consider pre-booking a parking space – but expect these to fill up quickly.
What will happen with stamps and the postal strikes?
Stamps featuring the Queen’s head will continue to be valid until 31 January 2023. That specific date isn’t related to the introduction of stamps bearing the image of King Charles III, however.
Earlier this year, it was announced that stamps are changing and will now feature a barcode. Those stamps lurking in your drawer or wallet can still be used but will be phased out at the end of January 2023. Non-barcoded Christmas stamps will still remain valid.
If you don’t think you’ll get through your stash of stamps in time, you can swap them through the Royal Mail’s ‘swap out’ scheme. Annoyingly, you can’t swap out your old stamps in the Post Office branches – you need to fill out a form and post it back.
Royal Mail have announced that services will be suspended on the day of the Queen’s funeral – 19 September 2022. Strike action due to go ahead on 09 September 2022 was called off and the next strike is not due until 30 September 2022.
Will currency featuring the Queen expire soon?
As with stamps, King Charles III’s likeness will eventually replace that of the Queen on UK notes and coins. However, this process will take some time.
The Queen has featured on bank notes since 1960 and on coins since 1953. The Bank of England has confirmed that notes featuring the Queen will continue to be legal tender – but have stated that they will make a further announcement after the period of mourning has ended.
Readers may recall that the current £20 and £50 notes are due to be withdrawn on 30 September 2022. Assuming the Bank of England don’t extend that deadline, these notes will seek to be legal tender. This means you will not be able to use the notes in shops or to pay for goods and services to businesses. You’ll be able to deposit expired notes after this date with many banks (and sometimes through the Post Office). Lots of people forget that you can exchange notes direct with the Bank of England at their counter or through the post too.
What are my rights if ticketed events are cancelled?
If a gig, sporting event or anything similar is cancelled you are entitled to a full refund of the face value of the ticket. Usually, the promoter or event organiser will refund you on to the card you paid with if the event is off completely.
It’s likely that many ticketed events cancelled in the last week or coming days will be rescheduled. If you can’t attend a rescheduled event, you should be entitled to a full refund too. Make sure you explain to the selling agent why you can’t attend though.
Things become a bit more complicated if the event is going ahead but you can’t get there due to transport problems. As I’ve previously mentioned, it’s expected that London will be exceptionally busy in the coming week, which, coupled with already high demand for reduced train services, means you might not be able to get to an event in the capital if your train, flight or even coach is cancelled.
Under these circumstances, the ticket company or event organiser isn’t technically at fault, so you might have use their resale options. Most ticket firms allow you to resell tickets through their websites as a way to challenge the ticket resale agencies or touts. But if your ticket doesn’t sell, you lose the cash.
A better option might be to ‘gift’ the ticket to a friend or family member. Again, most ticket firms and box offices will allow you to do this, but usually you must regift the ticket a good 48 hours before the event. You’ll probably have to download and use the ticket firm’s app to do this. Take a deep breath before you do so – every one I have used is a massive, frustrating faff. But persevere and you should get there in the end.
What help and support will be available over the next two weeks for those in financial difficulties?
It has been announced that Monday 19 September will be a bank holiday as the Queen’s funeral will take place on that day. However, as with other bank holidays, there is not a statutory entitlement to a day off. Some services will continue to operate, as will many vital services. You can find out more about your rights when it comes to working on the Government’s advice page here.
The fact remains that many people were deeply concerned about their finances before the death of the Queen – and a wide range of support services are and will continue to be available through this period of national mourning.
The Times Money Mentor pages contain all our guides and support covering a range of sectors and situations (including all my columns). You can also subscribe to the [Times newsletter information].
If you are concerned about not being able to pay the bills, it’s vital that you speak up as soon as possible. All regulated sectors, from energy to financial services, have an obligation to come up with plans tailored to your needs if you are struggling financially. You’ll need to give them a short overview of your incomings and outgoings. Don’t forget that you can ask to go to an ombudsman or dispute resolution scheme if you remain unhappy with the proposals offered by a regulated business.
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