Osborne Axes Winter Fuel Pay For Expat Pensioners

Osborne Axes Winter Fuel Pay For Expat PensionersBritish government spending cuts offer cold comfort for thousands of expat state pensioners living in warmer climes as Chancellor George Osborne has axed their winter fuel payments.

Around 100,000 British pensioners claiming the benefit live in warmer European countries – with most in the south of Spain.

As state pensions living in the European Union, they were entitled to claim the winter fuel allowance of between £100 and £300.

Pensioners in Spain picked up £5.78 million from the payment in 2011 even though government climate experts showed the country was one of seven in Europe that had warmer winters than Britain.

The trigger for paying the allowance was the temperature in Britain, not where the pensioner lived.

Financial heat

But at a stroke, Osborne has turned up the financial heat on state pensioners by introducing a temperature test that wipes out the benefit for tens of thousands.

The move was prompted by a European Court of Justice ruling that ordered the government to change the rules for paying the allowance.

The money was paid to those who claimed their pension before leaving the UK. The court ruled that the government must pay the benefit to all state pensioners living in Europe and Switzerland who started receiving the pension after they had left the UK as well.

That quadrupled the number of pensioners to almost 450,000 and would add millions to the bill.

Now, the government has revamped the rules to plug the hole in the pension budget.

“Paying welfare benefits to people of all nationalities who may have lived and worked here at some time years ago but choose to live elsewhere is not fair to British taxpayers,” said Osborne.

Temperature test

“The winter fuel payment will be linked to a temperature test from next year, and those living in hotter countries will not receive the payment.”

Expat state pensioners protest that winters in Europe are often colder than those in Britain, even in countries that are much hotter during the summer months.

However, those living in Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Gibraltar will have their payment cut.

The National Federation of Occupational Pensioners is concerned thousands of expat pensioners may not have enough money for their heating without the payment.

“Many homes do not have heating or insulation and are much colder than those in Britain during the winter,” said a spokesman. “Some of these countries are just as cold as the UK – especially Northern France.”

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