Winter fuel payments to be stopped to British expats in France

15 December 2014

Key points about this news item Winter fuel payments to be stopped to British expats in France

British expats in France will be denied the Winter Fuel Allowance from 2015


British government stops winter fuel payments to France

It has long be rumoured and talked about, but now the British government has formally put a new regulation before Parliament excluding France and a number of other countries from the annual winter fuel payment from winter 2015 onwards.


The Social Fund Winter Fuel Payment (amendment) Regulations 2014 were signed by the Pensions Minister Steve Webb and the stated aim is to “ensure that the payment is better targeted on people who live in countries with a cold climate”.  There is an exception for anyone born on or before 5 July 1952 allowing them to claim the 2015 payment, but they must apply before 31 March 2015.


Details of the exception can be found on the UK government website.


There is a large population of British pensioners in France and other European countries named in the exclusion include Malta, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Gibraltar and Cyprus.  Around 95,000 expat pensioners across Europe will be affected by the move.


As mentioned, the winter payment for expats has been under fire for a very long time with opponents always pointing to the fact that so many expats live in hot countries.  In some areas this may be true, but even in France and Spain there are areas that have colder winters than much of the UK.  The government carried out a temperature test, to measure average temperatures compared to the UK.  For France, this included their tropical territories to ensure that it fell into the catchment of the regulations!


The Statutory Instrument, as it is known, will come into force from 21 September 2015 so long as the Standing Committee passes it, which it is expected to do without debate.


Expat pensioners are gradually having more and more benefits removed by successive governments in a bid to save money.  For expats that have paid all their life into the UK system, it comes as a bit of a slap in the face to have benefits removed simply because they have decided to reside in another country.  Part of this appears to be prejudice, because people assume that if you can move to another country, you must be rich.  In a large number of cases this is simply not true, with many expat pensioners surviving just on their pensions and having struggled recently when the Sterling to Euro rate was very poor.


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