Winter fuel allowance stopped for expats in warm countries

If you’re a UK citizen planning on retiring to warmer climes in other countries, be sure you’ve thoroughly investigated the particulars. One of the perceived benefits, of course, is milder winters and more sunshine, but that’s not necessarily the case even in locations that are historically warmer than the UK. For those to whom a winter fuel allowance is a crucial part of the budget, having it taken away could cause real problems.

Based on data collected by the Met office, the Prime Minister has announced that expats living in ‘warm countries’ will no longer get the winter fuel allowance, which for many people amounts to as much as £300 annually. The decision comes after last year’s ruling by the European Court of Justice that changed the requirements for eligibility.

Previously the UK government was only allowing the fuel subsidy if property owners were at least 60 years old when they immigrated, but the ruling means the UK may be forced to pay the subsidy to all of its approximately 440,000 expat pensioners. PM George Osborne said that paying out that much money (which could amount to over £100 million) is unacceptable.

“Paying out even more money to people of all nationalities who may have worked in this country years ago but no longer live here is not a fair use of the nation’s cash,” said Osborne. Therefore pensioners in ‘warm’ countries, specifically Spain, France, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Portugal, Italy, Malta and Gibraltar will be ineligible for the fuel subsidy as of 2015.

An estimated 60,000 who are currently claiming the benefit will be affected, and the Treasury also notes than another 115,000 will be prevented from receiving subsidies as of 2015, many of them pensioners who would have become eligible under the the new ruling. Malcolm Booth, head of the National Federation of Occupational Pensioners, said the move “. . . may be the first of many to end universal benefits which will leave some of the poorest in society even worse off.”