ECJ allows British expats to receive winter fuel subsidies

ECJ allows British expats to receive winter fuel subsidies
Published:  30 Aug at 9 AM
The European Court of Justice has ruffled feathers by ruling that all British pensioners living in Switzerland and the European Economic Area should be able to claim the government’s annual winter fuel subsidy.

Since 1998, the handout of £300 has been available to all pensions in the UK but only expats who moved abroad after turning 60. However, under the new rules, any expat living in Europe will now be able to claim the money.

The ruling was strongly criticised by the government’s Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who called it “ludicrous”. He said that those living in hot countries should not need help with their winter fuel bills, adding that a temperature test should be introduced so that only those who need the money receive it.

Mr Duncan’s speech created a big debate on the matter both home and abroad, with news websites running the story receiving hundreds of comments. Many British pensioners living in warmer parts of the UK fear they could lose out if a temperature test is introduced, while those who have retired to warmer countries argue that the money could help with air conditioning costs in the hot weather instead.

The Daily Mail closed its comments function after receiving more than 300, while the Daily Telegraph has also received hundreds. Some say that the attempt to deny expats the fuel subsidy is not surprising considering the government’s fight against up-rating the pensions of those living abroad in line with those in the UK.