21 July 2005
LONDON — British pensioners living in Spain have been paid GBP 7 million (EUR 10m) in winter fuel payments by the British government, it has emerged.
The opposition Liberal Democrat party in Britain urged a review of the system after discovering that thousands of recipients of the GBP200-a-time (EUR 287)payments were resident in the sunnier climes of countries such as Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and Greece.
Under arrangements which apply across the European Union, Britons living abroad can “export” state benefits to their overseas homes, the British Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.
It means that expatriates resident as far away as Iceland, Poland and Lithuania now get help with their winter fuel bills.
But by far the largest number of overseas claimants are those living in Spain, with more than 31,000 payments since 2002-03 or just over GBP6.3m (EUR9.6m) in total. The number of payments to Britons living in Spain has trebled in the past three years.
France has the second highest number of pay outs at just over 12,000 (GBP2.4m, EUR3.45m), with Ireland third at 4,424 or GBP884,000 (EUR1.2m).
David Laws, the Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman, who obtained the figures, questioned why “some quite affluent pensioners living abroad” in what in some cases were “quite warm Mediterranean climates” were receiving the help.
The issue arose as two reports warn that the number of people who struggle to meet the cost of heating would rise.
The National Energy Action, and the National Right to Fuel Campaign blame increases in the cost of fuel and relatively static incomes, especially for the elderly. However, a separate report from the Government, also released today, shows that fuel poverty dropped from 6.5 million households in 1996 to two million in 2003.
The Department for Work and Pensions indicated there were no plans to review the winter fuel system as it affected Britons living abroad.
Subject: Spanish news