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Following a 13-fold rise in the number of expats claiming the Winter Fuel benefit in the last decade it is not really surprising that the government is looking at the figures with a view to reducing or even discontinuing the benefit for those living overseas, and if any scrutiny were carried out in an evenhanded way I am sure that many of us would welcome its conclusions.

Unfortunately, rather than fulfil such a study the Chancellor has simply announced ‘a crackdown’ which those rather more cynical members of the expat society feel is simply a case of winning a few votes prior to the UK elections, rather than any real attempts at making monetary savings.

This crackdown would disqualify an estimated 120,000 people and, according to Osborne, save £30million a year after 2015/16, when it is expected to come into force.

There are other figures in circulation that suggest that the numbers could well be much, much lower. The latest information for Spain shows 33,815 pensioners living here receive the payment, worth £200 for the over-60s and £300 for those over the age of 80. This costs taxpayers £5.8million a year.

Unfortunately the perception is, with temperatures in Spain often reaching the low 60’s in December and January, the allowance is not required.

What the Chancellor hasn’t considered is the regularity with which night time temperatures fall to freezing or below and the relatively poor insulation suffered by us in the majority of Spanish properties – NO GOVERNMENT GRANTS FOR INSULATING YOUR DWELLING OVER HERE FOLKS!

The fact that many Spanish residents are also paying UK taxes is perhaps another detail that has been conveniently ignored by Mr Osborne.

Also worth noting for Spain is that the Canary Isles and the 2 North African enclaves are included in the "average winter test" whilst the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the Indian Ocean islands of Réunion and Mayotte and French Guiana in South America were added to average temperatures in mainland France.

We should also be aware of the proven meteorological figures that in Chingford Essex, the constituency of the current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, residents enjoy a warmer climate than parts of both France and Spain, which many expats will confirm, especially in the winter months, that temperatures can drop to -20°C, resulting in high energy and fuel costs on top of the increases in fuel costs levied by the major energy providers.

Well at this stage not all has yet been lost because there is currently an E-Petition in existence, which has already attracted over 13,000 signatures, which really could make a difference and which is desperately waiting for you to sign. But you only have until 31st March to get signed-up and neither do you have to live abroad to sign it!

The threshold that we need to reach if we are to ensure that the matter is considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee is 100 000 signatures.

The contact details are:

If you don’t have access to the internet then I suggest you find someone who does.

The important thing is that your name is entered onto that petition……NOW!

In recent developments British MP Roger Gale has tabled a motion in the House of Commons asking for the ‘statutory instrument’ (SI) axing the payments to be anulled. It is now vital this obtains support from other MPs.

Sir Roger said: “People must now contact their own MPs [in the case of expats, MPs for the last UK constituency where you were registered to vote] explaining why they have an interest. Tell them: ‘I am going to lose my WFP, which matters to me; this is unfair because…’ and please therefore will they sign EDM 695 which is a prayer against the statutory instrument.’

You can find your MP’s details here:

Readers should also ask their MP to be kind enough to confirm that they have done this.

If you have an opinion on the matter that you would like to share with Leader Readers email a letter to office@theleader.info and we will publish on the Letters Page next week.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/46177/

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