The issue of British pensioners living overseas and receiving a winter fuel allowance has been a bone of contention among the general public and policy makers for some time.
Now, because of a European court ruling, the taxpayer will be dishing out 70% more in winter fuel payments for Expat retirees.
Judges ruled that anyone with a sufficient link to the UK is entitled to claim a yearly payment of between £200-£300 – even if they live in nations with a temperate climate and don’t increase their fuel usage in the winter. Before this ruling expats claiming the benefit had to have lived in Britain until the age of 60.
Consequently, the cost of supplying UK expats with a winter fuel allowance has swelled from £12.8 million in the year 2011-12 to £21 million in the year 2012-13, a 70 per cent surge.
Spain and France have seen the steepest climb in winter fuel allowance payments over the past ten years.
In the year 2012/13 £8,853,000 went to claimants in Spain, £5,125,000 went to France and a further £1,000,000 was issued to expats in Greece, Italy and Malta.
The European court ruling was blasted by Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith.
He argued that; ‘The huge increase in UK winter fuel payments equates to a near doubling in costs to the British taxpayer and that is wholly unacceptable. It is not fair, and it’s not something this government is going to tolerate. This increase is a direct result of a ridiculous ruling by the European Court of Justice and we are not prepared to sit back and allow hard-working taxpayers money to be used in this way.’
Given that UK pensioners are facing sharp increases to their energy costs and the prospect of a very chilly winter, this news has understandably created something of a furore.
However, from next year any British expat pensioners living in a nation with a higher average winter temperature than the UK will be prevented from claiming.
What do you think?
Should all UK expat pensioners be entitled to winter fuel allowance regardless of where they live?
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