One million households got a free broadband boost overnight – here’s why

One million households got a free broadband boost overnight – here’s why

Virgin Media broadband customers get a free internet upgrade in new roll-out.

Brean Horne
Wed, 01/08/2020 – 14:02


Over one million Virgin Media customers have received a free broadband boost of up to five times their previous speed.

The upgrade, which started on Tuesday, will move customers on to Virgin Media’s M100 package, meaning they’ll benefit from an average broadband speed of 108Mbps – twice as fast as the UK average.

Under the plan, more than half a million Virgin Media customers will see their broadband speeds double and some will experience a five-fold speed increase.

To be eligible for the free broadband speed boost, customers must have joined Virgin media before 1 December 2019 and be on one of the following tariffs:

  • M50
  • L50
  • L70
  • Capped Fibre 20

Upgrades will happen automatically, and customers will get a notification once it’s completed.

Virgin’s roll-out aims to reward loyal customers and make internet access more accessible.

Annie Brooks, executive director of connectivity at Virgin Media, say: “We’re starting 2020 with a broadband bang by rewarding our loyal customers with this free speed upgrade so even more people can experience our ultrafast, future-proof connectivity.”

“As the UK’s fastest widely available broadband provider, we want to banish buffering and let our customers live without limits so they can do everything they want to online, at the same time, without delay.”

How to fix a slow internet connection

If you think your broadband speed is slower than it should be, an online broadband checker can help you find out how much you are getting.

Companies like uSwitch offer free broadband speed checkers online.

Not all households will get the average speed quoted by providers in adverts.

This is because companies advertise average speeds available to 50% of their customers at peak times.

So, 50% could end up with slower speeds.

If your broadband speed is much slower than you’re paying for, get in touch with your provider for advice.

There could be a fault on your line, problems with your set-up or even a temporary service fault that could lower your broadband speed.

If your broadband provider isn’t able to assist you, then it’s worth switching to a new one that offers better service.

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Some councils are charging families for ‘paupers’ funerals’

Some councils are charging families for ‘paupers’ funerals’

A Freedom of Information Act (FOI) has revealed that some local authorities do not automatically return ashes and are charging bereaved families

Stephen Little
Wed, 01/08/2020 – 10:06


Some councils in Britain are charging bereaved families to return ashes from a public health funeral, while others are not even allowing relatives to attend.

A ‘paupers’ funeral’ is a simple cremation or burial arranged by the local authority for people who have died alone or in poverty. They tend to be very basic and do not have flowers or a wake.

Insurer Royal London sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to 400 UK local authorities and received 383 responses.

It found that 14 councils do not allow family members to attend a public health funeral. 

Some councils explained that they were unable to do this as no service is provided for a family to attend.

The FOI also revealed that 21 councils in the UK did return ashes to the family after a cremation, while 18 councils charge bereaved families for the ashes to be returned.

Reasons for charging for ashes included the cost of the urn to the council or a collection cost.

What is a paupers’ funeral?

Local authorities are required by law to arrange public health funerals for people when no suitable arrangements have been made.

They carry out thousands of ‘pauper’s funerals’ every year for people who have died alone, in poverty or do not have family.

The funeral services are very basic do not include flowers or transport for the family, while some burials may also take place in an unmarked shared grave.

It is possible to attend the funeral, but the local authority will decide the time and date.

Rising costs

With funeral costs rising to well over £4,000, many people are unable to afford a basic funeral.

In the 2018/19 financial year, more than 4,000 public health funerals took place at a cost of £6.3 million.

Nearly a third (29%) of these funerals were undertaken by local councils because bereaved families were unable to afford the cost.

Royal London is calling for minimum standards for public health funerals.

Louise Eaton-Terry, funeral cost expert at Royal London, says: “It’s incredibly sad when bereaved families have no choice but to seek a public health funeral. But when some families are refused the ashes of their loved ones or are not even allowed to attend the funeral, it is clear that they are being treated unfairly.

“It’s about time the system was overhauled, and we’re calling for legislation on minimum standards for public health funerals to ensure everyone can, at the very least, attend a funeral and collect their loved one’s ashes.”

A spokesman for the Local Government Association says: “Public health funerals are a last resort for those cases where family or friends cannot be identified to arrange a funeral, or no-one is willing to do so.

“When arranging these funerals, councils will seek to ensure the religious beliefs or wishes of the deceased are respected and they are provided with a dignified funeral, while keeping the costs to local taxpayers to a minimum.

“In many cases the deceased has no family to arrange their funeral, so there is no-one to attend a service if one is held or to collect the ashes.

“Where family members are unable to afford the cost of the funeral those who receive income related benefits can apply for a funeral payment, and last year the government announced an uplift in the grants made available, though these may not cover the full costs of a funeral.

“With local authorities facing challenging funding pressures the increase in the number of public health funerals is putting further pressure on council budgets and driving them to limit the costs they incur in arranging these funerals.”

What to do if there isn’t enough money for a funeral

The government’s Funeral Expenses Payment helps certain individuals who are on a low income to pay for a funeral they are responsible for organising.

The fund covers the full cost of burial or cremation and up to £700 in funeral directors’ fees.

To be able to claim you will need to be a partner of the deceased when they died or a close relative of the friend. It is available to those claiming benefits, including Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits.

You can apply for it by completing an SF200 form on website

You can also apply for Bereavement Support Benefit if your husband, wife, or civil partner dies.

If you are pregnant or have a child you will receive a monthly payment of £350 for 18 months following the death, or a one-off payment of £3,500 during the first month.

Everyone else will get a monthly payment of £100 for 18 months, or a one-off payment of £2,500 during the first month.

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Revealed: the UK towns with the most residents aged over 90

Revealed: the UK towns with the most residents aged over 90

Over-90s are fastest growing age group in UK, and they are clustering in a few prime spots across the country

Laura Miller
Mon, 01/06/2020 – 17:00


This year the number of over-90s in Britain will have increased by more than a third (36%) since 2010, bringing the total number of nonagenarians 616,000, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Growth of this grey army is significantly outpacing that of the wider population, which is up only 7% for the same period.

Thirty years ago, the UK was home to just 237,900 over-90s – less than half the figure for today.

You are more likely to be aged 90 or over in the rural Hampshire enclave of New Forest than anywhere else in the country. Analysis of ONS data by Aegon, a retirement company, found the hotspot will be home to 3,610 residents aged over 90 this year, making up 1.98% of its population, the highest in the UK.

Over-90s are most likely to live in the South East – it is on course to have six out of the top 10 areas with the highest proportion of residents who have made it into their nineties.

Top 10 UK areas with the highest proportion of population 90 years and over (2020)




People 90 years and over

% of population 90 years and over


New Forest

South East, England





South East, England





South East, England









East Devon

South West, England




North Norfolk

Eastern England





South East, England





South East, England





South East, England








Source: ONS 2020

By comparison, Tower Hamlets in London will have the lowest percentage of over 90s in the UK. Just 0.26%, or around one in 400, of its population will be aged 90 and over in 2020.

While New Forest has the most over-90s, East Dunbartonshire in West Scotland will have seen the largest growth in the proportion of over 90s. It is projected this year to double compared to figures for 2010, making up almost 1.2% of residents.

The Midlands is the region with the biggest growth in population aged 90 and over during the last 10 years.

Planning for the 100-year life

With rising life expectancy, the trend for growing numbers of over-90s in Britain’s towns and cities is expected to continue, as Baby Boomers move into older age.

According to the ONS, one in five boys and one in four girls born today is projected to live to 100. In 50 years’ time this is expected to be around half for new-born children.

Living longer either means working longer to pay for the extra years, or saving harder while working to pay for an extended retirement.

Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon says: “Improved life expectancy across the UK is something to celebrate but as our population ages it’s important to remember that a longer life requires more money to fund it.

“It is crucial, therefore, we build these changes into our financial planning so we are not caught short in retirement.”

Working out how much we need in retirement is one of the hardest parts of financial planning. To help, experts at Loughborough University and the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) got together to crack the nut of what is “enough”.

Savers can use the findings, laid out in the UK Retirement Living Standards, to make pension saving a realistic goal, by picturing themselves living the life their money can afford – and, if they don’t like what they see, to save more to bump up to the next level.

Minimum, moderate or comfortable?

The UK Retirement Living Standards are pitched at three levels; minimum, moderate and comfortable, alongside a basket of goods and services they can buy, from food and drink to holidays.

The standards work out at £10,000, £20,000 and £30,000 a year for individuals, and £15,000, £30,000 and £45,000 annually for couples.

Saving a pot big enough to give you an income of £10,200 a year, for a single person, and £15,700 for a couple, will put you into the “minimum lifestyle” bracket. This should cover all your basic needs, while leaving enough to treat yourself once in a while.

Savers in this bracket will be spending £38 a week on food shopping, have a yearly holiday in Britain, go for dinner in a restaurant once a month, and take part in a couple of cheapish hobbies every week.

With the full state pension of almost £8,800, plus some private retirement savings, most people should be on track for at least this level of comfort when they retire.

Saving a bit more will give you a “moderate” lifestyle. This is around £20,200 a year for singles and £29,100 for couples. For it you get everything you would have enjoyed at the minimum level, plus a bit more.

You’d have around £46 a week to spend on food shopping, maybe a two-week break in Europe every year, dine at fancy restaurants several times a month, and take up more adventurous past times.

Finally, for those who want a deluxe retirement, or what’s been branded “comfortable”, experts have upped the minimum income figures to £33,000 a year for single people and £47,500 for couples.

Retirement for this group looks like regular beauty treatments, £56 a week on groceries, theatre trips and long-haul holidays, maybe to Mexico or Mauritius.

However, these figures won’t work for everyone. They are based on the assumption that most people will not have a mortgage, rent or social care costs to pay once they retire.

The social care problem

A growing and ageing population means demand for care services is increasing, and funding has not kept pace.

A 2019 report by Age UK, the older persons charity, detailed that between 2017 and 2040 the numbers of people aged over 85 – the group most likely to need health and care services – is projected to nearly double from 1.4 to 2.7 million.

The same report found spending per head of the adult population fell by 17.5% in real terms between 2010/11 and 2017/18.

According to, a report by healthcare specialists Laing & Buisson in 2018, private care homes costs can range from £27,000 to £39,000 a year for a residential care home, or £35,000 to £55,000 if nursing care is also required.

In the latest Queen’s Speech, the government repeated its commitment to reforming adult social care, after the failure of successive governments to tackle the problem.

Cameron adds: “Our ageing society brings with it significant challenges, particularly with issues such as social care and access to public services and it’s important to recognise that demands will vary across the different areas of the UK.

“We hope this will lead to a concerted cross-party action to solve this crisis.”

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