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Cyprus too hot for handouts: British expats to lose winter fuel allowance.

THOUSANDS of British expat pensioners living in Cyprus will lose out on winter fuel allowances from the British government for winter 2015-16 under new legislation to be passed next week, according to a Daily Mail exclusive published yesterday.

The British government has tabled legislation to Parliament introducing a 'temperature test' aimed at curbing the handout to expats living in a number of countries. People in Cyprus, France, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Spain will all lose the right to claim from September 2015, the paper writes.

It quoted Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith as condemning the 'absurd' handouts. He pledged to change the rules which have cost the UK taxpayer Au130 million in a decade.

The winter fuel allowance is worth at least Au200 for the over-62s, rising to Au300 for the over-80s.

The handout is supposed 'to help pay your heating bills' and designed as a flat sum for all pensioners to put towards the costs of keeping warm during the icy winter months.

But EU rules mean it can be paid to expats if they can show they have a 'genuine link with the UK', and the money does not necessarily have to be spent on energy bills.

Britain is spending Au22 million a year on winter fuel allowances for people living elsewhere in Europe, despite more than a third living in sunnier climes, the Daily Mail said.

The bulk of the annual handout goes to expats in Spain with Au8.7 million, followed by Ireland Au5.5 million, France Au5.1 million and Cyprus Au1.4 million. After that the sums becomes smaller with Portugal coming in at Au579,000.

According to the Daily Mail, in 2002-03, a mere 8,000 people in 16 countries claimed at a total cost of Au1 million. But by winter of 2013-14 a total of 135,285 people in 30 countries received Au133million.

This included 50,000 in Spain, 30,000 in France, 3,300 in Portugal, 8,000 in Cyprus and 2,000 in Greece.

The new 'temperature test' to stop payments being made to countries where the average annual temperature is higher than the warmest region of the UK -- the South West at 5.6C (42F).

The handouts will still be available to people in 25 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Duncan Smith told MailOnline: "Winter fuel payments exist to help Britain's pensioners keep themselves warm. It's absurd and offensive that taxpayers are funding these payments for people who have retired to the Mediterranean and enjoy warmer weather."

The legislation to introduce the temperature test is expected to come into force next week for winter 2015-16.

Duncan Smith added: "The European Union has frustrated our attempts to address this issue in the past, but with our new temperature-based eligibility criteria we're able to satisfy EU rules as well as prevent this obscene waste of taxpayers' money."

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Dec 31, 2014
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