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January 8, 2013 9:40 pm
Hold the sangria. Sun-loving British expats might have to cut back on their winter spending in future if the government decides to cancel winter fuel payments to pensioners living in sunnier climes.
The highest concentrations of retired Britons can be found on the Mediterranean coast – a fact mirrored in winter fuel payments data. Half of all foreign payments go to Britons living in Spain, figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions under the Freedom of Information Act show. France, Cyprus, Portugal, Italy and Greece are also popular.
In total, £12.8m was paid out to 74,685 expat claimants in 2011-12. However, this figure could rise significantly following a recent European Court ruling. Until now, only pensioners who had claimed the winter fuel allowance before leaving the UK had been eligible to continue receiving it abroad. The ruling means about 440,000 people living in European countries who receive a UK state pension would technically be eligible to claim the payout, worth up to £300 a year.
The government’s proposed “temperature test” which would restrict the payout to pensioners living in areas with average daytime winter temperatures of 15C or below would cover some, but not all, overseas claimants. For example, the third-largest group of recipients, in Ireland, would still be eligible. So would those in Germany and Switzerland.
Still, the savings would melt little from the total £2.2bn winter payments paid to 12.7m people, the majority of whom live in the UK.
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