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UK government says it will save £30m a year from changing expat entitlement to Winter Fuel Payments

Icy end to the day in Loubejac, Dordogne
THE UK government has said it will save £30 million a year by ending the automatic right to Winter Fuel Payments (WFP) for pensioners living in seven EU countries, including France.

The ending of the Winter Fuel Payment was first announce in June when George Osborne gave his spending review, he said that a 'temperature test' would be used to decide eligibility and that the changes would come into force from the winter of 2015/16.

In a report the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) looks at the proposed impact of the changes outlining the cost savings should those British pensioners in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Spain no longer receive the annual fuel payment.

The report states: " the first year of implementation there will be an estimated 132,000 people in the EEA who will no longer be entitled to WFP. By not paying WFP to these people, the reduction in WFP expenditure resulting from the WFP-TL [Winter Fuel payment temperature link] proposal is estimated at £30m a year from 2015/16 onwards."

Although the DWP report mentions the temperature link in its title, the actual content does not put forward any weather data showing the difference between the seven EU countries picked out and the region used for comparison in the UK, which was the south west of England.

Criticism of the plan has been strong amongst expat pensioners in the countries affected, particularly in France where many regions experience severe winter temperatures and conditions.

Members of the Votes for Expat Brits campaign group are urging people to contact their MP in the UK where they last lived, as well as questioning the number of pensioners living in the EU used in the report and highlighting the temperature differences.

"Personally I find it extremely hard to believe how the Department of Work and Pensions has come up with this list of seven countries," said Graham Richards from the Lot-et-Garonne.

"What about both Italy, and the newest and 28th member of the EU, Croatia? I have been to all nine of these countries during the summer season and can confirm that the temperatures are all very warm and about the same, therefore why have Italy and Croatia plus I expect other EU countries been excluded?

"Temperatures here in the EU drop to between 10 and 20 degrees centigrade below zero during the winter months. I know this personally as nearly two years ago, like a lot of other British expats living in an EU country, I had two burst pipes which had to be sorted out very quickly."

The UK government will have to bring in legislation to make the fuel payment changes, which is expected to happen in early 2015, but it is also likely to face scrutiny from Europe.

With winter fuel payments considered as part of old-age pensions then such discrimination between EU countries is likely to be challenged.

And it was only last year that the UK government had to open up the payment to all pensioners who had a 'genuine and sufficient link' to the UK, after losing a case in the European Court of Justice.

Brian Cave, a leading campaigner for the rights of UK pensioners in Europe, believes the best way forward is that the winter fuel payment is absorbed into the pension system.

He wrote last month that this is the fairest way as the better off would lost some of it.

Download Payment of Winter Fuel Payments in EEA: impacts of the proposed temperature link (.pdf)

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janice northcott

When we lived in south east England we never experienced temperatures of minus 9 as we regularly do each winter here in Herault, France. I'd really like to hear the UK government's reasoning on their choice of expatriates to victimise! And we are still UK tax payers.
Janice Northcott

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