By Bejay Browne
BRITISH pensioners living in Cyprus have been stripped of their winter fuel allowance, announced as part of changes in the spending review by UK Chancellor George Osbourne.
British expats living in seven countries deemed too warm – including Cyprus – will no longer receive the £300 winter fuel allowance as Osbourne vowed to crack down on the so called ‘sunshine benefit’.
The measures are expected to save up to £30million a year. The move will affect thousands of expats living in Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Malta, Portugal, France and Gibraltar.
The crackdown will come into effect after the next election, he said.
The new ‘temperature test’ as it’s been dubbed will affect thousands of Brits residing in Cyprus – not least those in Paphos and the news has left them up in arms, furious over a decision which they say is unfair and will leave them seriously out of pocket.
David Graves-Moore, 78, and wife Rosaleen, 69, have been in receipt of the full £300 payment since they moved to Cyprus five and a half years ago, but that will change under the new rules, which the pensioner says are a “disgrace”.
“This is theft. Our last electricity bill which covered the period from the end of December 2012 up to the end of February this year was close to €800. We probably spent another €400 on wood for the fire,” he said.
Cyprus currently has the highest electricity prices in the European Union and no piped gas supply to homes.
Chairman of the Paphos branch of the UKCA – the United Kingdom Citizen’s Association – Steve Kay, 66, moved to Paphos five years ago and says that we do need the allowance here.
He said: “I don’t think that the British government realise that although it’s not as cold here as in the UK, the temperature does drop considerably and it does get cold.”
According to the Cyprus meteorological service in January the average temperature is 10C inland and 3C in the Troodos mountains, although it often becomes cooler.
Graves-Moore said: “We live in Stroumpi in Paphos which is 17,000 feet above sea level and I’m sure that the temperature here in January is much colder than that of London.”
The so called ‘temperature test’ was set by the UK Treasury along with the Meteorological Office, which examined average winter temperatures over the last 29 years in Europe and the UK.
Graves-Moore added: “I take great exception to George Osbourne inferring that it’s time to stop people having ‘something for nothing’, my wife and I have both worked all of our lives, paid our National Insurance contributions and taxes in the UK and we are just as entitled as any one else to receive this payment.”
Kay, who up to now has been in receipt of £200 a year allowance agrees: “I paid national insurance for years – since I was 16 – and that is supposed to pay for all that.”
“I live in Peyia which is in the hills – and the temperature drops considerably in the winter. It was often six degrees and cooler last winter,” Kay said. “That may not sound cold to some in
the UK, but we have acclimatised here and to us it feels freezing.
“Of course this payment comes in handy. Electricity prices are high in Cyprus and some people rely on air conditioners for heating as well as electric fires or blow heaters. It works out as very expensive.”
Sheila Dawker, 70, a Paphos resident described the announcement as atrocious and unlawful, and said that it would directly affect her ability to heat her home during the winter months.
She said: “This just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not even means tested – it’s only to do with the temperature. As I understand it, well-off expat pensioners who have gone to live in a cold country will still get the benefit, but people like me with a very limited income will get nothing, just because we have hot summers, its absolutely ridiculous and unfair.”
The retiree added: “George Osbourne said that ‘people in hot countries will no longer get it. It is a payment for winter fuel.’ Is he an idiot? We still have winters here – I mean you can ski in the Troodos most winters.”