British expats living in some parts of Europe have hit out at the UK government’s decision to axe the winter fuel allowance which is worth up to £300 a year. Those living on Normandy in northern France, for example, point out that the winters are the same as in the UK yet they will lose the allowance. Others living in the Alps and northern Italy say their winters are colder and longer and expats in Spain living away from the coast say they too can experience exceptionally cold months.
Many have also commented upon the fact that houses in many parts of Europe are generally less well insulated and without double glazing so they cost more to heat than many homes in the UK. Under the new arrangements the allowance will end in 2015 for expat pensioners living in Greece, France, Spain, Malta, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus and Gibraltar.
The scheme relies on comparisons with the average winter temperatures in the warmest corner of the UK, the south west, and has caused anger across many popular expat destinations where winters are far colder than in Devon and Cornwall due to their prevailing weather patterns. One retiree living in south eastern France said that temperatures can drop to -10 regularly during the winter months. Many other expats are pointing out that retirees living in France on a UK state pension have a hard time managing even with the winter fuel allowance.
Quote from ExpatForum.com : “Tens of thousands of expat British pensioners living in warm European countries will no longer get a winter fuel allowance from 2015, the UK government has announced. Currently British pensioners receive the allowance which varies from £100 to £300 and in recent years there has been much criticism of the payments.”
Those thinking of retiring abroad are being urged to take steps to soften the loss of the allowance even if they are moving to warmer countries like Spain. According to Costa Blanca estate agency HomeEspaña would be expat retirees can take steps to budget for overseas living. Managing director Kieran Byrne said that monthly overheads are generally lower in Spain than in the UK.
For example, like for like council tax in Spain is around a quarter of that in the UK. He suggests that when searching for a home on the Costa Blanca, buyers should choose somewhere within walking distance of all amenities. They should also be looking to reduce expenditure on regular travel and consider somewhere with low or no community fees as these can add up over the year, especially on complexes with lots of facilities, and have been known to catch out new residents.
He also advises using a currency specialist to transfer monthly pension amounts as they will give a better rate than the high street banks and shopping and eating like the locals as they tend to know the cheapest places. Byrne also pointed out that more newer houses now have better insulation – solar panels and other eco friendly options can also help to keep utility bills down.