UK retirees in France plead for return of winter fuel allowance

Published:  27 Jul at 6 PM
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British expatriates living in France are considering asking the UK government to repeal its withdrawal of the winter fuel allowance given to retired UK citizens to help with their fuel bills.

Brits living in France’s mountainous regions as well as in the areas fronting the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel have been the worst affected since the payment to all expats in France was discontinued in 2015. Entitlement to the allowance was calculated by the British government by means of averaging temperatures in France, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Gibraltar, Spain and Portugal and comparing them with the average temperature in the warmest British region. Expats in those countries where average temperatures were higher than the British result were then denied their winter fuel allowance.

Whilst it could be considered fair that Britons living in countries with warm temperatures year-round should not receive the allowance, France is a special, more complex geographical case. When the French average was calculated, temperatures in the French overseas territories of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, French Guyana, Martinique and Guadeloupe were included, bringing the overall total to above that of the warmest UK region and triggering the removal of the allowance from all retired Britons in France.

Whilst pensioners living along the country’s Mediterranean coastline might not miss the contribution to their winter fuel bills, those in the Pyrennees and adjoining regions as well as those living along the Atlantic and English Channel coastlines argue that winters in those locations are often far colder than in the UK. Had Reunion and the other mostly tropical territories not been included, mainland France’s average temperature would have stood at 4.9 degrees, far lower than its present rating of 7.0 degrees, and lower than the UK’s at 5.6 degrees.

This would have meant that all British pensioners living in France were still entitled to the allowance. As mainland France is a favoured location for UK pensioner expats, paying the allowance would seem to be the right thing to do, although the present government is very unlikely to change its mind or its methods of calculation, however unfair.
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