- Friday, 13 January 2012
Winter fuel aid for ex-pats in the sun - it’s balmy
As I write this, the temperature in Greece is 21c, a pleasant 18c in Spain; Malta is enjoying 22c, while Cyprus is blessed with 26c – as warm as a summer’s day here. Not that there’s anything warm about Britain at this precise moment: in Aberdeen it’s 2c, Cardiff 1c, Manchester 3c and London is among the warmest cities, at just 5c.
So which group of pensioners deserves winter fuel payments, those shivering in Britain (where, as we reported in November, 200 will die from cold-related illnesses every day before spring) or those expats soaking up the sun?
Apparently both. According to a recent report, between 2006 and 2011, tax-free winter fuel payments totaling some £53m have been made to expats living in Europe’s hottest countries. As Robert Oxley of the Tax Payers’ Alliance points out: “This is an incredible amount to pay to expats enjoying a life in the sun.” The annual tax-free payment of up to £300 was, he adds, originally intended for pensioners fighting the freezing winter conditions in Britain, not those sipping sangria on the Costa del Sol.
Well said. It doesn’t seem, however, that this ridiculous situation is going to change any time soon. The Department for Work and Pensions claims to have its hands tied because winter fuel payments must be paid to pensioners living abroad in order to comply with – you’ve guessed it – European law. So while one group is using the money to stay alive, the other is spending it on...what? Barbecues?
Here then, is an impassioned plea to our expat pensioners: if you really don’t need the winter fuel payment, don’t claim it. Right now, here in Britain we need all the help we can get to keep the home fires burning.
The wrong and winding road
There was a story a couple of weeks ago about one hapless chap who spent two days lost, driving around (and around) the M25 motorway. He might still be there had not the police, alerted by concerned relatives, rescued him and shown him the way home. I can’t beat that...but I can come close. Returning from Manchester the other day I entrusted the navigation to the car’s Sat Nav system. All went well until I reached the M6 southbound and opted to take the toll route, as opposed to the free, but jammed, M6 non-toll route.
Several miles and £5 later, the lady on the Sat Nav told me with mounting urgency to get off the motorway. I was confused but obeyed. I trusted her, you see. She ordered me on to a roundabout and then to rejoin the same M6 toll motorway – this time heading north. I know, I know, at this stage most people would have turned the pesky Sat Nav system off. But, loyal to the end, I continued to trust it. I trusted it all the way back up the M6 – incurring another £5 toll fee – until it directed me on to the M6 non-toll route heading south. Only then was the lady happy.
Obviously, she and the Sat Nav had something against toll roads. Less obvious is why I fell for it. But there’s a Mature Times pen set for any reader who can top that and prove I’m not the daftest driver on the road.
In the grand scheme...
According to our front page survey, twice as many grandparents would rather have another grandchild this year than a new pet. I can understand why. Both grandchildren and pets are adorable, loving, trusting and, of course, messy. But at least you can give the former back at the end of the day.