Expats cool on petition against end of winter fuel allowance

Published:  2 Jan at 6 PM
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A petition by lobbyists attempting to reverse the withdrawal of winter fuel allowances for expat pensioners is getting the cold shoulder from the majority of retirees overseas.

With over 200,000 British pensioners living overseas in European states due to lose their winter fuel allowance, it’s a surprise that the petition has so far attracted just 15,000 signatures. Many of the thousands of retirees living abroad are located in regions with colder, if shorter, winters than those in the more southerly regions of England.

According to the British government, the winter fuel allowance is not a right in the same way as is the state pension, but a non-contributory benefit. Extra heating in colder winters, they say, is up to the pensioner to budget for, even although it was first introduced by the European Court as a benefit for state pensioners in EU states and Switzerland.

In an effort to reduce social benefit bills, the government decided to restrict the payment to those living in regions colder on average in winter than is the UK. As a result, expats in Spain, Greece, Malta, Italy, France, Portugal and Gibraltar will no longer receive the benefit.

Geographically speaking, the British government’s selection of several of these countries is, to put it mildly, flawed, as retirees living in the mountainous areas of France, Italy and northern Greece experience winters at least as cold as those in the north of England and Scotland. In addition, the harsh winters last far longer than in most of the UK.

The government is under pressure over two more expat issues; frozen pensions and disenfranchisement of those with more than 15 years of living overseas. A petition for better parliamentary representation for those living abroad has attracted only 2,500 signatures, although France now has a minister and 11MPs representing its two million expats.
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