British expats have accused the government of fiddling with the seasons to come up with a formula that stops them claiming controversial heating allowances.
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The government says the move will save money and that expats living in warmer countries should not receive the payment, which is worth up to £300 a year.
The accusations come after one expat discovered that the traditional winter season of December through to February was changed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
Instead, the pensions winter last five months – from November to March each year.
And government mandarins have even added in French tropical overseas territories, although they claim France includes the offshore departments of French Guyana, Guadeloupe, La Reunion, and Martinique.
The relevance of the longer winter and including tropical locations is the annual temperature test which determines whether expats receive the winter fuel allowance.
Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Malta, Gibraltar and Cyprus all fail the temperature test from next year, meaning tens of thousands of expats cannot claim the allowance.
Chancellor George Osborne reckons 120,000 expats are not outside the scheme and the country will save £30million a year from April 2016.
The temperature test says if a country has a higher average winter temperature than the warmest area of the UK, the winter allowance is not paid.
The most expats receiving the payment live in Spain –where 34,000 pick up £5.8 million a year even though average temperatures in December and January are as high as 63 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Regardless of what expats think, they decided to move overseas and this bill is just going up and is not sustainable,” said a Treasury spokesman.
“The rules have changed because it is not right a payment meant to help our pensioners through a cold British winter is received by people living in the warm Mediterranean.”
Some expats complain that the winter temperatures in France and some mountainous areas of Spain are as cold as those in the UK and it is unfair they are excluded from receiving the cash.
The DWP explained that the winter allowance payment was aligned with claim period for cold weather payments, which is why winter appears to cover five months.
During this time, state pensioners in Britain are automatically paid the allowance if the temperature falls below zero centigrade or less for seven days in a row.
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