Brit expat pensioners to lose winter fuel allowance

Published:  27 Jun at 6 PM
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UK Chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce plans to introduce a ‘temperature test’ to determine whether expat pensioners living overseas should continue to receive winter fuel allowances.

According to sources within the government, the Chancellor will make his announcement on Thursday, unveiling proposals to stop the benefit for pensioners living in warmer countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy and France. The winter fuel allowance is worth up to £300 a year and must now paid to all pensioners living abroad.

The temperature test will compare the average winter temperature in overseas locations against that in the warmest UK region, and it’s expected that about 100,000 people will be disqualified. The new rule is slated to come into effect in the winter of 2015/16, and will save the government an estimated £30 million a year.

Controversially, the law will allow wealthy pensioners living in colder climes to continue receiving the benefit, whilst disallowing poorer pensioners who live in areas with warm summers and chilly winters such as France. A 2012 ruling by the European Court of Justice that all pensioners living overseas should receive the payment is thought to be behind the crackdown as, previously, only those who left the UK after the age of 60 were allowed to claim.

The EC ruling is thought to have increased the number of possible claimants to 440,000 from 75,000, and will cost the government around £100 million yearly. At present, around 12 million UK-resident pensioners receive the benefit, pledged by David Cameron during the last election as being untouchable for the life of this government.

However, Labour and Lib-Dem critics are now saying that the payments should be either means-tested or cut after the next election in 2016. All three political parties are now in discussion about cutting or axing the benefit for wealthier pensioners in the UK.

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