Readers reply on winter fuel row
Hundreds of Connexion readers complained about the proposals to halt the winter fuel allowance for UK citizens in France
Here we include just some of the hundreds of emails of complaint we had from readers about Chancellor George Osborne's plans to stop paying the winter fuel allowance to expats resident in France:
We think it is disgusting that the Government is planning to stop the Winter Fuel payment for expats in 2015.
We are aged 65 and 66 and had to pay in for our pensions for 45 years – now people only have to pay in for 30 years, so we are going to be penalised for paying in more!
We live in Normandy and this is the worst winter for nine years since we have had the house and we actually lit the woodburner during the first weekend in June as it was so cold.
Our Son lives in Scotland and it was warmer up there than it was here this winter – so, think again Mr Osborne!
Terence Hollande, Normandy
I think stopping the winter fuel allowance on the existing temperature comparisons is totally wrong, particularly as many expats have only in the past year been allowed to claim.
Eunice Phillips, by email
Another chilly winter ahead. I am 71 years and I never got the allowance and now never will. They say you can't miss what you have never had but I am missing it already.
Meg McKenzie Brookes, by email
This is what you get under a Tory government! I came to France in 2007 to visit a friend on being here for only 2 weeks I decided to stay. There has not been a winter since coming to Mayenne, in Pays de Loire, where the temperature has not fallen below -15C. This year in February the temperature was -20C and we were snowed in for a full week and the same last year.
It is totally wrong to say we have high temperature in winter in north-west France. If need be I will be applying to the Court of Human Rights: if this government is handing out millions in Poverty Aid let it first consider its own nationals first. I shall be writing to my MP in Lancashire and my MEP about this
Jane Baxter, by email
With regard to the selection of French tropical departments for the comparison figures it is curious that Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon was not included. It appears to be yet another kick in the teeth to British nationals who live outside the borders of the UK. There are many areas of France that are colder than Devon & Cornwall in winter.
This comes on top of the decision to ban overseas residents from investing in the TSB shares launch. Why is it always necessary to have a British address to be considered British? Apparently if I was to apply for shares as a French company then that is acceptable. The absurdity knows no bounds.
Ian Bell, by email
ANYONE with a garden will know that different plants have different ‘hardiness’ regarding climate. The uk/gardenweb.com data for the UK, France and Italy show that France is mostly seen to have a similar climate to central and northern England, while Italy is more like SW England.
Since it seems there is to be ‘no debate’, how can the Government’s calculations be challenged, not to mention the fact that their decision is both arbitrary and discriminatory, probably rendering it illegal.
Richard Best, 76560 Héricourt-en-Caux
It’s absurd, here in the Auvergne in winter it is regularly -10C at nights, and often -15C to – 20C! For several months!The English are barmy, as usual.
Penelope Reinarz, by email
My wife and I have lived in the Parc Naturelle du Morvan in the Cote D'Or since 1993, over 20 years. Every winter without fail the temperature drops to well below freezing.The lowest recorded temperature for this area is -28C. The lowest we have experienced is -20 C. That is cold. The average is -15 C. Our winter is generally from mid-November till the end of March, sometimes into April.
For at least 10 of those 20 years we have been blocked in by snow for anything between three and ten days at a stretch.
My wife and I hope that these facts are of some use somewhere in the fight to protect our winter fuel allowance. I am now 78 years old and have been fighting to get the allowance for 13 years. The stumbling block was always that I wasn't resident in the UK between certain dates in September each year. After persistent pestering I received my first payment last year. It looks like the fight is on again.
Robert Fisher, Cote-d’Or
And the politicians wonder why the 'public' who pay their salaries, expenses etc. (and are not the fools they seem to think we are) have such little faith in them or their underlings/researchers any more when they try to pull such a dirty trick as this?
How can they possibly justify including such 'hot' islands, dominions etc. when calculating the WTA. Surely, the sensible, honourable and moral thing to do is to exclude areas which patently do not have cold winters, though having said that it is a FUEL allowance NOT a HEATING allowance. Those in hot climates may need the allowance to pay for air conditioning to keep them cool. If they are elderly, which is why they are getting the allowance in the first place, they need AC just as much as heat for poor circulation and maintaining health.
After all, let's be honest: have not the pensioners by the time they receive their pension put into the NI pot for over 40years? Are they not ENTITLED to receive back what they have paid in for? Whereas, people arriving on our shores, for whatever reason, seem able to dip into our national piggy bank without so much as a please or thank you, not having paid in a cent.
If they want to make savings, then let the politicians keep down their salaries and not penalise those who are no longer in a position to work. No wonder more people are selling their homes to cover care costs.
Name withheld, Aude
I am a senior citizen and worked in UK until my retirement and paid my taxes. I became a resident in France after working as a flight attendant. I live in a village 25 minutes from Calais and suffered very cold weather last winter and winters before. I do not understand why I am not eligible for the payment as it is as cold here and sometimes colder as in the UK during the winter.
I would like to add that I have only received the winter fuel payment since last year as I was living in France for four years (not as a resident ) until retirement. I am now 67 years old.
Linda John, by email
My husband and I are residents of the Morvan, Burgundy. We can assure the UK Government that normal winters here are far colder than normal winters in the UK. Having worked and paid our taxes for over 45 years, we think it is totally wrong that people living in parts of France, with winters much colder than the UK, should be deprived of the winter fuel payment.
Sylvia Hood, Morvan
I have recently enjoyed a friend’s visit here in the Pyrénées where I live, he resides in London and owns and lives in a 7-Bedroom, 5-bathroom house. He is a millionaire many times over and he and his wife receives the Winter Allowance! I have an annual income totalling £12,000 and am homeless, as I rent out my property in England in order to survive! The British pension I have learned, is the meanest in Europe and a third of the amount received by a French citizen from their government. I am deeply ashamed to be British!
Michael Handelman, Bagnères-de-Luchon
I object most strongly to the withdrawal of my Winter Fuel Allowance which I was allowed by the UK Government to receive in September 2012 for the first time, having been resident in France for seven years.
It was -26C in February 2012, the snow lasted six weeks and I have photos of the stalactite 1m25cm long hanging from my gutter. I wore hat, scarf, coat and seven layers of clothing to bed at night with a bucket for toilet as the toilet was in an outside building!
In February 2013 it was -12C for about two weeks... again I was wearing a lot of clothing but not as bad as the previous year. My kitchen was 7C at 8am, the bedroom 9C and the living room 11C before I could relight the woodburner that had extinguished itself! It is my only heating source in one room. I could put the mobile electric heaters on but am reluctant to do so because of fuel costs.
That £200 WFA is not a great deal of money when it cost me £6000+ to install two woodburners, it costs €540 for nine steres of logs, costs €200 to get the chimney swept.
I cannot be done on my teacher’s pension and state pension – yet I am better off than some. I need the £200 winter fuel allowance or an equivalent rise in my state pension which note, is received gross and tax has to be paid!
Edna Pattenden, 86260, Angles sur L'Anglin
Might I humbly suggest Her Majesty’s government have worked hard to stop the WFA to the numerous people living in France by using this excuse of the Caribbean Islands (it would be delightful to find the little pipsqueak who thought of this wheeze) since more retired persons choose to live here rather than in any other European country. And then they wonder why we left our native shores…
Dare I say, our country ceased to care for us, it was not the reverse? After all it was we, the war babies, who were urged to work hard and to save etc etc and now even at this end of our lives interest payments at an all time low and even our little perks are being taken away.
Deirdre Cooper, Bazoches sur Hoesne
I was both surprised and disappointed to find the online petition concerning the WFA is only open to British nationals, and wonder who decided that it should be so.
I am French and settled back in France when I retired, in 2009, after 40 years living and working in Britain. During that time I duly paid all my taxes and other contributions and, as a single, childless woman, never took a penny from the government. I was always in work, indeed, I was self-employed for the best part of 30 years.
In other words, I was exactly like any British person – except, of course, that for much of that time I wasn’t allowed to vote purely on the basis of my nationality.
Although decisions concerning the WFA allowance do affect me (my state pension is very modest), I now find myself facing the same kind of discrimination: I am not allowed to express myself because I’m not British! WHY?
In a different vein, has anybody pointed out to the DWP that state pensioners living anywhere in the Eurozone are already sorely penalised due to the weakness of Sterling over the past four years? Anyone relying on income originating in the UK is now getting around 18% less than they did before the financial crisis, which is a huge difference. Why then penalise us even more by withdrawing the WFA?
In any case, I applaud you for supporting UK state pensioners and for unveiling the absurdity of including overseas tropical islands in France’s average temperatures.
Odile Noël, by email
It is stupid to say we are not cold enough for a winter payment for fuel. Where I live we had a fire up to and incuding May 29 last year and we go down to -13C mid winter. We are pensioners living on a very small pension and the money is needed to warm up our arthritic bodies.
The decision to exclude France is purely a political gain to save more money from the French expenditure so it lessens the situation in England.
They must abide by the European rules and regulations.
Pauline Busby, by email
Including French overseas tropical territories in calculating the qualifying temperature for payment of WFA is just typical of the mean-minded government attitude towards expats. For the sake of fairness, the temperatures of British overseas possessions (like Ascension Island or the Comoros in the Indian Ocean) should be counted in the calculation of the UK qualifying temperature, but I bet they are not!
Rod Wiggins, Charente
It is ludicrous and totally unjust to lump all French territories together in order to justify scrapping payment of the winter fuel allowance. My wife and I, both in our 70s, live in Normandy where the temperatures in winter are invariably in single figures, and at times do not rise above freezing all day. How can this be equated with the Carribean?
We have to consume a lot of energy in order to keep warm, and payment of the WFA is every bit as justifiable as in the UK, which often is not as cold as where we live.
Charles Shildrick, Normandy
This is an underhand way for the government to get money as most pensioners are living in mainland France, not on the Islands. It is well known the temperature in France is well below the south-west of England in winter. Here, in Lot-et-Garonne, we've experienced -17C.
Surely the concept of the WFA , for pensioners, is an integral part of them being in this category.
Terry Davison, Lot-et-Garonne
If the London government want to play like that, then each part of Britain should be tested for temperature and only those areas where the temperature is cold enough should qualify. Then places like the Scilly isles and the south-west and central London would not qualify either.
Willy Peel, Dunoon
I am an OAP. I live in mainland France. First the RPI/CPI switch for the annual state pension increase, now the attack on WFA. I am trying to get the data used for the temperature calculations, so far without success. I want to know if Saint Pierre and Miquelon were included, because although they are a territorial overseas collectivity of France, they are French. It is cold there in winter.
This government is the enemy of pensioners. I am a registered expat UK voter. It is easy to register. Tactical voting is far more effective than abstaining, which is a cop out. I have told my Tory MP that in 2015 I shall vote against him because of these attacks upon us..
Pete Smith, by email
SINCE the declaration of non-payment of WFA, Connexion has rightly devoted many column inches to this, the 15-year rule and the relative treatment (of concern and respect) shown by France to its expat citizens and the complete opposite (disregard and lack of respect) that HMG shows its expat citizens.
But you are preaching to the converted or in many cases to the apathetic!
There needs to be much more UK media coverage of a government which discriminates so much against a large section of its citizens. If you have ‘connexions’, use them!
Whether you are interested or not interested in using your vote – you really should be interested in having the ‘Right to Vote’, otherwise what worth is democracy?
Tony LEA, by email
We live in Provence - the "hot part" of France – yet we are just 60-70 miles from the Alps so -10C is very common in January and February, -15C occurs often and we have seen -20C! We normally get "snowed in" for around a week every year. Somewhat colder than most of the UK I would think.
Also, we have contributed to this all our working lives in the UK.
Bob Speller, by email
Although I am not yet retired, and therefore don't qualify for a fuel allowance, I was astonished by this decision. One of the things about living in Central France that is obvious to all, except the UK government, is that in winter we ALWAYS have temperatures around -15C, and regularly a period when daytime temperatures remain below zero for at least a week. If the UK government monitored the news programmes over here, they couldn't fail to see the French government initiatives for aiding the old and infirm during these winter periods. Clearly the department chiefs in the UK government have holiday homes in the "outre-mer" islands, and not in Metropolitan France.
Do you think we should also push for a "summer air-conditioning payment" to pay the increased electricity costs during "la canicule"
Paul Belsey, by email
Whether they averaged out the temperatures including Frances tropical isles or not, I still find it rather worrying that the Chancellor’s private education gave him no knowledge of France and its weather, maybe he would like to come and stay with us over the winter, and see how cold we are even with our heating on!
Georgina Osborne, by email
Going down the line of ‘technical errors’ in the calculation of WFA zones is missing the basics of the issue: WFA was brought in for EU resident UK citizens. This has has been stated many times by the EU. It is a matter of equality of citizens’ rights.
It is the same with the way the UK government disenfranchised its citizens from a human right to representation after 15 years.
The original UK measures on WFA ensured that places south of Watford would qualify (using ambient average temperatue differences) whereas Braemar (which often has temperatures well into – 20Cs did not).
Michael Strawson, by email
The stopping of the WFP for Expats in France, using the average temperatures on French tropical offshore islands, is just typical of the governments (of any colour) and civil service they will manipulate any figures to suit their own needs.
Peter Morgan, Brittany
As an expat living in the Dordogne (for seven years) I find French weather statistics are sketchy - I would like to know how any averages have been calculated.
The inclusion of DOM-TOMS in finding an average temperature for France is absurd. What about people in Channel Isles?
Mainland France has highly divergent weather. I can't see why some more detail can't be worked in, say dividing the country into 6 areas.
Meanness. GB has just 'saved' 10s or 100s of millions of pounds by not going to Syria. Money always has to be found for any emergency events like that.
Roger Munns, Dordogne
I support this petition for various reasons:
Firstly, I have found the information on WFA sent from the UK confused, misleading and contradictory. I have lived here for almost 10 years and during that time have received just one WFA payment, which was provided last year after I wrote to stress the findings of the European court that it was illegal to deny British pensioners their allowance. Now I am told that I am not eligible because of my country of residence. In the light of the inclusion of the Dom-Toms to create France's average temperature, one can see how the government anti-European coterie is working. Not having the courage to confront authority in Brussels, they have attacked the elderly who live in France. How valiant! Nothing like hitting your own pensioners hard!
Secondly, my area of the Auvergne has a long, harsh winter, with temperatures of -15 to -20 degrees. I note that those retired and usually wealthy expats living in tropical places like the British Virgin Islands are not to be penalised. I wonder why? Does David Cameron think we are uninformed and powerless simply because we are pensioners? We know exactly what the political incentives are.
Thirdly, what benefits do I have from the UK, apart from my retirement pension, which was awarded for the whole of my working life spent there? I make no claims on the NHS, do not have the advantage of a bus pass and have never in my life claimed social aid from Britain.
Fourthly, perhaps Mr Cameron would like to tell me if his mother or elderly relatives wear four pullovers in the winter days, use hot-water-bottles and a rug whilst watching TV and frequently go to bed fully-clothed wearing also a woolly bonnet.
Fifthly, I suspect I am not the only person to be abandoned alone in France and caught in the trap of not being able to return to any decent accommodation in England. Not all pensioners are here from choice.
Last of all, please consider that any petition presented to the government must be lucid, grammatically correct and without poorly-used antecedents. It is an official document representing a large number of people and as such should be as well-expressed as possible.
Barbara P. Martindale, by email
This is consistent with the UK Conservative government as they continually look to cut adrift those who have paid their tax into the state systems and have then been brave enough to try something different in experiencing life overseas.
David Young, by email
My wife and I lived and worked all our lives in the UK. When we retired we moved to France and we currently receive the Winter Fuel Allowance.
I am 68 and my wife is 63. Up to December 2007 we lived in Worcestershire. We now live near Confolens in the Charente. Winters here are cold. During the winter of 2011/12 night-time temperatures fell as low as -20 and it stayed below freezing during the day for some weeks.
That winter I (a diabetic) suffered frost bite in one of my toes and the nurse called in twice a week for nearly four weeks to treat it.
Our heating bills (oil) are over €2000 per year and we need the winter fuel allowance. To take it away cannot be right as it would cause real hardship. Although the summers here are generally warmer than the UK, the winters are much colder and the winter fuel allowance is a godsend.
It cannot be right, morally or legally to deprive pensioners of this rightful benefit. We have no other income except for our pensions and we are British through and through. We are not foreigners that have sponged on the UK as the Government has intimated.
Also, I understand the UK Government has included the temperatures of the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the Indian Ocean islands of Réunion and Mayotte and French Guiana in South America in their calculations when assessing the average temperature of France - which needless to say is going to skew the results somewhat in the UK Government’s favour.
This is totally wrong and must not be allowed to happen. Someone with some sense must have a word in Cameron's shell-like and put him right.
Mr R Freeman, 16500 Saint Maurice Des Lions
Having worked as a civil servant in England all my working life I retired to France. It is not hot here all the year round as people who only visit in summer think, but in the winter we have very cold weather. I have paid, all my working life, into the British system and now I am treated as an outcast while people who have never worked or contributed at all or very little can, and do, claim every benefit available.
I still pay my income tax to Britain because mine is a government pension but the only benefit I get for that is the WFA and the pleasure of paying nearly double the normal amount when I want a new passport.
Chris Bond, Gard
It is grossly unfair to consider stopping this allowance, which has only just in fact been allowed. Temperatures in winter here in the Ariège are much much colder than in most of England, and even most of Scotland. We very often have long spells of below freezing temperatures overnight, which persists well into the morning before getting to a low plus (centigrade) temperature. A great deal of heating is needed.
Lisa Barber, Ariège
Is it too simple a solution to simply pay the WFA to those pensioners residing in mainland France, but not to those who reside in France’s sub-tropical colonies?
David Hart, 83120 Var
What nonsense to include the French Caribbean islands when estimating temperatures. Most of us live in the north and some southerly regions of France. We in the Vendee do have cold weather which can continue into spring. In fact this year we still had our heating on plus wood fires into May. We also had snow this year.
This is just another ploy by the UK Government to renege on its responsibilities to those who contributed over the years to tax and NI contributions, in order to make payments to people who have never given one penny towards their upkeep.
We are two pensioners aged 71 and 81 who have paid full NI contributions all our lives until retirement and feel this is unjust.
Ian and Jill Orrick, Vendee
Typical UK, if there's a loophole they'll find it. Imagine including the tropical French islands in the temperature yardstick, against the SE of England, stupidity doesn't even come close. Thank God we don't live in that ridiculous country anymore. World power, I don't think so. It's a total disgrace how UK treats their OAP whether living in the UK or abroad. They totally forget it's us that put the money there in the first place. It's our own money not theirs.
Jeff Wright, by email
No MP to represent the expats throughout the world, no votes after 15years. What it all adds up to is that the politicians can do what they want with no repercussions. The WFA is just another easy target to save a little - but they could have saved a lot by not having a super increase in pay and pensions.
Sandy Masson, by email
Although I am now retired and live permanently in France, I have paid my taxes while working in the UK, therefore I am entitled to the Winter Fuel Allowance. Where I live, at the top extreme of Finistère, is comparable in weather terms to south-west England.
As for the calculation where average temperatures of the French Tropical Dominions are included, this is an absolute disgrace and totally unfair.
Only metropolitan France should be included and, even then, there is a strong case for drawing a thermogram as the much higher temperatures of the Riviera would make a mockery of the need for a winter fuel allowance.
Best leave the whole issue alone: it would save precious little in global terms anyway, and stir up huge ill-feeling if a limit were to be set.
Richard Longridge, Brittany
So, is the UK including all its overseas territories in its calculations, like the Cayman Islands? I know that these are not part of the UK and therefore not part of the EU, but the principal surely must still apply?
We live in the south of France, which most people would assume has a tropical climate. Do the population of the UK (for whom this withdrawal of benefit is being done, to appease certain elements, let’s face it!) know that we have many many weeks of below-zero temperatures, plus snow? I doubt it.
Hazel Crawford, Lorgues, Var
We live in south-west France and are nearly 77years of age. Have we definitely lost our fuel allowance? The last few years we have had temperatures as low as -17C. Hardly tropical temperatures! My husband and I both worked from the age of 15 until 65. Is there anything we can do?
Irene Nightingale, by email
I paid tax to the UK continuously for 34 years when in work. Now I am retired, this is the first thing I am elligible to receive in terms of allowances. I am still paying tax to the UK as I have a 'government' pension. This allowance would have enabled me to buy a little extra fuel.
In winter I sit freezing in the Normandy house I now live in - I wonder if they've turned the central heating down in the House of Commons?
David Evans, Normandy
We had to laugh when reading that the French overseas territories were included in the UK Government's calculations! There really are some morons in the relevant government department! Perhaps some Brits do live in the DomToms, but there can't be many, while the majority chose to live in mainland France!
To even the playing field a bit perhaps the UK government on their side should have included Anguila, the British Virgin Islands, the Caymen Islands, St. Helena, etc. in the UK calculations - all British territories (or former)!
We have written to our UK MP, signed the petition and bombarded the British Consulate in Bordeaux, hoping that many others will do likewise to keep the fight going. Our winters (in the northern Dordogne) are longer and colder than in south-west England! Keep up the good fight!
Ute and John Chell, 24800 St. Jory de Chalais
I think that is indicative of the sloppy way statistics are compiled by a civil service that is not up to the job. You would think that with all the university graduates they choose one would have realised that the inclusion of the Outre-mer departments would unbalance the result. We live in the Dordogne and during winter we have had weeks, not days, of temperatures below -5 C. and a low of -20C. The Department of Work and Pensions should compare us with Italy at least or the average for the Benelux countries, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
Just a note to add: Your newspaper does a great job keeping up with all things we in France need to know!
Paul H Donaghy, Dordogne
I find this issue grossly unfair. As times are hard, then surely the fairest way to deal with it would be to have it means tested, at least then the poorest would still receive it. It seems to me madness that someone resident in the UK, with a holiday home in a warm country where they spend the winter is entitled to receive the payment because they are resident, officially, in the UK, but pensioners out here with winter temperatures down to -25C do not qualify.
However, I assume those that are wealthy enough to still have a UK address could quite easily say that they are in the UK and still claim. The winter fuel payment pays for our heating, one small woodburner to heat the whole house.
Veronica Steadman, by email
My husband and I both worked hard all our adult lives and paid all our dues to the government - neither of us have never claimed a penny.
On retirement, we decided to live in France and chose a small village in the Vaucluse in the foothills of the Mont Ventoux, where the winters are very cold from November until the end of April. The temperature is frequently below freezing for many weeks on end, with snow a common occurrence. Buying wood with higher electricity bills during these months to heat the house is always a big worry.
Depriving us and other old age pensioners, who choose to retire in another country, of this allowance - after all we paid for it in the first place - is stingy, and utterly shameful of a government which seems to have its priorities mixed up.
An English retired couple, Vaucluse
For the Chancellor to say that paying money to those who have left the country is ‘not a fair use of the nation’s cash’, and the arbitrary way in which the cut is to be applied are both unfair. In all my working life I was unemployed for only 10 days between my military service and entering the teaching profession. During my working life I paid income tax, national insurance and all the other taxes that one is called upon to pay.
If I were living in the UK I would not only receive the winter fuel Allowance, but also a free bus pass and a free TV licence. To make matters worse I am disenfranchised in both countries.
As we are living in an EEC country we should be entitled to exactly the same benefits as we would be if we were resident in the UK.
Robert Woods, by email
My wife and I are both resident in Charente Maritime and are both ex-RAF. As a result, our RAF pensions are taxed at source and we cannot opt to be taxed elsewhere. Therefore, as pensioners living in the EU with Government pensions, we would expect to continue to receive the universal benefits as our contemporaries’ do who live in the UK.
Also, we would expect that as British residents overseas we would still be entitled to the protection and duty of care offered by the UK authorities. The future non-payment of the Winter Fuel Allowance would seem to go against these tenets of natural justice.
Furthermore, as chairman and secretary of the Royal Air Forces Association Branch here in south-west France, we have first-hand experience of British folk living here struggling to pay their heating bills.
The UK government has allowed both the £ sterling to devalue by about 30% against the Euro in recent years and has also overseen returns on any UK savings to depreciate because of the continued low UK bank base rate; thus leaving those on fixed incomes to see their spending power greatly reduced.
Withdrawing the Winter Fuel Payment is yet another “nail in the financial coffin”.
How can the UK government choose only seven European countries to action this withdrawal of this universal payment? What about Italy and those entitled living in the Channel Islands?
No wonder our politicians are held in such poor regard given this vindictive and malicious decision. Furthermore they have no election mandate to action this benefit withdrawal. We are now subject to free-range taxation without any legal representation or right to vote in the country which we both served and risked our lives for many years.
Terry Dennett and Beryl Dennett Standard, 17250 BEURLAY
In the winter of 2011/2012 my local vineyard in Puy l’Eveque recorded -26C. I used to live in Normandy: very beautiful but the winters were cold, wet and the heating in some form was on for many months.
Before moving to France in 2002 I was a nurseryman close to Gatwick Airport, notorious as a frost pocket but I don’t remember having such cold as here in Lot-et-Garonne.
I have little or no respect for politicians recognising them for what they are! And I think the idea of withdrawing the winter fuel payment cruel: God knows they squander and waste money like water !
Jonathan Nettleton, La Tourre Massoules 47140
We find it bizarre that a country as large as France with three distinct climates should be classified as having the same temperatures. We live in northern France where the night-time temperatures can plummet as low as -15C in winter and, indeed, the days sometimes do not rise above 0C.
This year we were lighting fires well into May. Our oil central heating is not cheap and we have an insert on which we burn wood. In addition we use (more economical) paraffin heaters but our fuel bill per year comes to well over €1000.
We are both tax resident in France, pay tax and social charges here, but some income requires us to still pay tax in the UK. Neither of us has ever claimed any type of benefit in the UK or has ever (fortunately) been out of work. We have paid the maximum in National Insurance contributions. S
o would someone please explain why, whether we need it or not, we shouldn't receive the relatively small amount for fuel that we are entitled to and the only amount ever given to us by UK Revenue - a tiny fraction of the thousands of pounds paid in benefits?
Toni and Alex Prette, Forges-les-Eaux, Normandy
Everyone who moves to France does so in the hope of a better life because they will leave behind the problems of Britain and inherit a warmer, drier climate. Nobody goes expecting a helping hand.
The winter fuel payment was envisaged to help struggling British pensioners cope with long cold British winters and soaring fuel costs after they chose to cap the supply of North Sea gas and import our gas supply. It was never intended for pensioners abroad.
After four years of living our dream life in France my wife and I were hit by the weak pound and virtually zero interest on savings. This meant we had two choices, we could stay with the rest of the expats and spend our lives moaning about the useless British government which put us in this position or sell up, take advantage of the weak pound and move back to the UK for a colder but less frugal life.
We chose the latter and have never once regretted it. We have enough money now to live on comfortably and have bought a caravan for long trips back to France whenever we want.
So come on expats, don't waste the rest of your lives moaning about payments that you do not get, but don't qualify for, either come back or shut up.
Paul Williams, by email
I was shocked to learn that the UK Government was planning to cancel the Winter Fuel Allowance for UK pensioners in France.
Many parts of France have more severe winter conditions than favoured parts of the UK. This is clearly just another attempt to take money from those who are least able to defend themselves.
Having survived World War Two and experienced the hardship of shortages and rationing, I see the modern generation living in a world of affluence, greed and waste. If they think there is not enough money for decent pensions, let them try living in the conditions we experienced in 1944.
I will still have a vote in the next election and it will go to any candidate who will stand up for the rights of pensioners and carers.
Mike Kearney, by email
I believe most strongly that the arbitrary decision to withdraw WFP from British residents in France and some other European countries is an unworthy swipe at non-voters. It is politics at its most shabby and will not save much money. I worked for 42 years in UK, paying every penny of the income tax and National Insurance contributions that were demanded. I have chosen not to impose my ageing body on the NHS in England, thus enabling my contributions to be spent on others.
We must campaign for representation in Westminster for UK nationals overseas. The French have a similar system and it is within living memory that Oxford and Cambridge Universities were individually represented at Westminster.
I have signed the relevant online petitions and urge others to do so.
Anthony Gaynor, 18360 Cher
The issue has reignited the EU wide debate on the need for at least one dedicated UK MP for expats – and on the incomprehensible withdrawal of voting rights after 15 years of living abroad.
We in Cyprus, some 34,000 ex-pats, also complain and protest against the decision of the UK. "We are easy targets with no vote," is the general feeling of us all in Cyprus. No vote either in UK or in Cyprus unlike Cypriots in UK who do have the franchise. How logical is that?
Having been forced by the European Court of Justice to change its stance on Winter Fuel Payments, the UK must now also continue to make payments to people who reach qualifying age while living outside of the UK and still have a "genuine and sufficient link" to the UK´s social security system.
They keep their national identity, having paid their tax and NI contributions for over 40 years. This is no more than their citizen birthright.
The recent DWP study bore no relationship to Cyprus location, altitude or housing conditions. It should be withdrawn.
Mike Groves, secretary, Cyprus Pensioners Focus Group (CPFG)
I have lived in the Vendee for over 11 years and had to install a central heating boiler in 2002 for nine radiators in upper and lower floors.
The boiler is on from December to March minimum to produce a modest background heat 18-20C. The oil bill is up to €1500 per annum and the prices rise by up to 10% a year.
As I am now 82 I’m dependent on this, and really appreciate the Winter Fuel Allowance .
Peter Somerville, 85480 St Hilaire-le-Vouhis
If the UK government is basing the cessation of our heating allowance on temperatures in SE England then they've got it wrong. Where in SE England do the temperatures regularly drop to -20C in winter, sometimes more and almost always -18C as they do here in Burgundy? Or perhaps they do and I've got it wrong?
Daphne Franklin, by email
George Osborne obviously never paid attention in geography lessons – and has obviously always been too rich to have to worry about paying his fuel bills!
My husband and I are both British, worked and paid into the system all our working lives, and chose to live permanently in our French holiday home in central Brittany (temperatures much the same as south-west England and with similar amounts of snow) after retirement. As a former Government worker, I am still an English taxpayer.
We rely on our winter fuel payment to cover our heating bills, and believe we have just the same entitlement as if we lived in the UK.
Susan Anderson and Richard Churm, by email
We lived in Alsace for a few years. There the winter can be long and very cold, sometimes -17C. We now live in the south-west where winters used to be mild but the past two winters were extremely cold with temperatures as low as -15C, long and wet. The idea that European countries have very mild winters is as a rule not true. Even in Portugal, where I lived for many years, it is hard not to heat your house in the winter except maybe in the Algarve. Without heating the temperature inside my flat in Lisbon could be as low as 10C. I wouldn’t call that warm?
The weather in some European countries can indeed be better than in the UK and that is one of the reasons why people move there but that doesn’t mean that they can do without heating!
Francisca Rigaud-Williams, by email
In February this year, Conjux in Savoie (73-Rhône-Alpes) was under 35cm of snow. While last winter was, admittedly, exceptional we can certainly expect up to -10C and 20cm of snow each winter – hence our complete justification in continuing to receive the winter fuel payment.
Lesley Parr, Savoie
I really can't believe what the government is trying to do to us. First we are penalised for leaving the UK before age 60 and now this. The Chancellor says "Paying out even more money to people from all nationalities who may have worked in this country years ago but no longer live here is not a fair use of the nation’s cash".
So whose money are they using? My husband paid into the UK system for nearly 40 years and myself for 25 years. I hope the EU will step in this time as they did before on our behalf. We use gas central heating in the winter and our gas tank has to be filled every 18 months as our winters here in France can be really bitter. This move of the government is an absolute farce!!
Linda Goodchild, by email
We are French naturalised nationals receiving pensions and winter fuel allowance based on our working lives in the UK. What rights, as French citizens, do we have when the UK government decides arbitrarily to reduce our income?
It seems to us that expats and foreign nationals are propping up the UK Treasury as we are sure there will be other foreign nationals in other European countries losing their winter fuel allowance. A recipe for destroying good will between our governments and encouraging tit-for-tat reprisals!
David and Lynn Sayer, by email
How is 'hot' calculated? I live in Provence and from the beginning of November until the end of March - and this year well into April - there is no question of not having heating on!
The winter of 2011-12 was not our coldest but, with the Mistral blowing; it was down to -17C.
Britain treats its expats worse than immigrants! After all, if we're eligible for a pension it means we've paid into the system and done our bit! On top of this, there's talk of a pay rise for MPs. I can only say 'no comment'.
Wendy Reed, by email
We live in the deepest Auvergne, at around 1000m, and this past winter the snow started in late November and the last fell late May. Temperatures are regularly -5C to -15C, even when no snow. They went down to -20C a couple of days in January, which is not unusual. We therefore use our wood burner day and night to heat the rooms and cook on and the winter fuel allowance helps us out enormously as we are on a fixed UK pension and the cost of heating is forever going up.
Wendy and Mike Varvell, Auvergne
We live about 300m up the Black Mountains and it gets bitterly cold and our last electricity bill covering two winter months was €1299.93 just to keep warm and cook. For the last three years we have had deep snow on our patio and snow clearance is a continual problem on the roads. No sooned is a path cleared than the snow is deep again. We have 4x4 cars and in an emergency can get out of the village for essential supplies, but this is rare.
John Stevens, south-west France
Winters in Poissy (Yvelines) can be very cold and it would be of interest to know on what basis and from which source the UK Government identified France as a ‘warm country’. Whatever the answer, it is clear the source made no distinction between north and south; compounded perhaps by a complete lack of comprehension as to how large in area the Hexagon actually is. We live in hope that reason will prevail.
Robert Bell, 78300 Poissy
Well done for taking up the cause. I was on Channel 4 a while ago saying how unfair it is for people who have paid their National Insurance and taxes in the UK and still receive UK taxable pensions - government/teachers/local authority etc - should have a legitimate payment such as the winter fuel allowance withdrawn. Tax it, fine, but just to remove it is not right.
Here in the Luberon it can get massively cold in the winter. Adam, my husband, is a rather obsessive collector of weather stats and they show that here, at 225m between Luberon mountain and plateau of Vaucluse, we have typical inland Provence climate with hot summers and often bitterly cold winters where prevailing Mistral has a strong wind-chill effect. Snow falls almost every year and can lie for up to 10 days.
Records from January 2007 show that in January 2009 18 days out of 31 were below 0C, while February 2012 had 20 days out of 29 (lowest temperature that month was -10.9C).
We normally use eight or nine cubic metres of wood costing €600. Fire is used almost every day from mid-October to mid-April and is supplemented by electric radiators which consume about €800, so winter heating costs €1400 roughly.
Joan Bunting, 84220 Roussillon
Last February (2012) we couldn't leave the house for a week after it dropped over six inches of snow in one night. After the snow melted, temperatures fell below freezing and stayed more than -10C for nearly a fortnight. Not hotter than the UK I think!
June Seymour, by email
My wife and I live in Pleugriffet, between Pontivy and Josselin in Morbihan, Brittany. I was born and lived in Paignton in the south-west of England until retirement, and I never experienced winters there as cold as the ones we have had here in the last 13 years. Snow was a novelty in Torbay, not so here.
Brian Tucker, Morbihan
We live near Gaillac in the Tarn and in 2001 we had -13C at night for 21 days during November. In 2012, in February, we had -15C and even the oil tank containing heating oil specific for cold weather (Esso 4 Seasons) waxed up and could not be used.
Neighbours have had water inlet pipes from the mains freeze underground. It can be COLD here in the winter, although not every winter.
Often this part of France is colder than UK because we lack the ameliorating effect of the sea around us. This proposal looks like the usual screwing of those who are not well placed to fight back!!
Alistair Moon, 81600 Senouillac
We are incensed that after getting the ECJ decision on winter fuel allowance, the British Government is proposing to refuse to pay people living in France. There are loads of poor-ish pensioners living in Brittany, like us, whose winter temperatures are very much the same as when we lived in the south-west of England, in Devon, the area they are measuring against.
France is so large that we should not be regarded as living in a 'hot' country because of some average calculation.
Susan Churchill, Brittany
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that from 2015 expats in France will not get the Winter Fuel Allowance. Surely that goes against the ruling by the European Court that ALL UK expats should receive it. I have written to the UK Treasury, the EU commissioner for welfare and the European Court expressing concern at this apparently illegal decision.
Could you please urge all UK expats living in France to do the same.
Paul Haverson, by email
I do wonder who has done the research on this. We pensioners have lived in the Charente-Maritime area now for 10 years and regularly suffer zero and/or minus degrees in winter. The winter of 2011 went down to -14C and for nearly two weeks the temperature didn't get above freezing.
Although the Winter Fuel Allowance is a very acceptable contribution to heating costs, in reality it covers a minute part of winter heating bills.
Not all pensioners are 'rich' and living the life of Riley in France! We are being squeezed in this economic climate like everyone else.
Kevin Bush, Charente-Maritime
France is a 'hot' country?? I am disabled and though I don't live in the coldest region (Yvelines) I don't leave my bed all winter.
My husband has to go out most winter weeks to break the ice on the hens' water dish. I had to cancel a medical appointment for eye surgery last winter as we were snowed in.
And even if a country is warmer than parts of the UK, we would have to put the heat on to be comfortable, just like everyone in Britain. Instead, due to cost, I stay in bed, my husband wears two sweaters or also stays in bed, and we build fires which only heat one room. And this is with a gas boiler; if it were electric it would be impossible.
We also shut off most of the house. Even the dogs sleep under the duvet with me, inc. during the day, so we keep each other warm.
Lisa Quinn, Yvelines
I live in the foothills of the Pyrénées, and have recorded the maximum/minimum temperature since I arrived in late 2000. The average temperature has been below 0C for 14 weeks each year.
Donald MacEwan, Ariège
Was my teacher at primary school wrong telling me 70 years ago that Europe including France was colder in winter than UK because the UK was surrounded by the Gulf Stream. Sounds to me George Osborne is playing politics, rather than geography.
Maybe Eton College Geography was different to that expounded to the masses.
Ian Morris, by email
In Loiret region, not quite the centre of France, we have regular winter temperatures of -15C to -20C.
I was unaware of the winter fuel allowance when I started to receive my state pension and moved to France seven years ago. I only read about it last year in The Connexion newspaper and, when I applied, was told that it could not be backdated. If they stop it now ,I would have only benefited for one year out of seven.
After working all my life, never taken maternity leave nor had unemployment or sick benefit, I haven't cost the UK much
Pat Tavener, by email
Re the proposed stoppage of WFA - I live just below Cherbourg and the winters here are very cold and damp. Snow every year and this year in March we were part of the hundreds that were snowed in for five days and had no water or electricity for two days!!
I would like to see Mr Osborne come out of his nicely heated house and live here and tell me the winters are warm!
Grahame Mussell, 50700 Normandy
Yes, we have below freezing temperatures and snow quite regularly every year in northern France. I wonder who did the temperature test?
D M Dutton, Brittany
I would say we are much colder here in the Mayenne than on the south coast of England where we used to live 23 years ago.
The land mass surrounding us now creates winter temperatures much lower than we experienced in the UK, and those low temperature last much longer.
Deeply disappointed and feel that Europe and human rights should be called into play.
Philip Moorey, Mayenne
The Chancellor has obviously been studying geography, but to average out the temperature for France is crazy since it stretches from the Channel to the Med, and includes the Pyrenees and Alps.
Certainly the past few winters here in Brittany have been colder, with the last winter across the whole of France being below "average", depending what period is considered to be average. There is also the matter of house construction since traditional French houses made of stone take considerably more fuel to maintain a reasonable temperature.
I can understand countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy being considered warmer countries, but does Germany qualify, especially as it has had record highs at times so far this summer?
I suspect that had we a Minister for Expatriates, or our MPs were concerned for the expat vote, then this wouldn't even get out of the starting blocks for the Northern European countries.
John Carpenter, Morbihan
It gets very cold, down to below freezing on the south coast where we live (mid-way between Sète and Agde). The British have created a myth that the south of France is warm the year round. It is not. Even during the day we don't get more than 4 or 5 degrees at midday.
In any case, we have paid for our old age rights. It would be inequitable to remove one.
Incidentally, we also ought to have the right to vote in elections and referendums - other countries allow their expats to vote. It is actually seen as a duty!
Please do all you can to block this selfish and ill-judged proposal.
Mike Worsam, Hérault
Having only pensions to live on, the WFP is vital to maintaining a warm environment through the winter months. Why is it that Conservatives always seek to treat pensioners as secondhand citizens, people who have paid in all their working lives, but still give benefits to those who have paid in very little, or nothing at all?
Jeff Mann, Orne
My husband and I are both pensioners and live near Confolens in the Charente. Winters here are cold. During the winter of 2011/12 night time temperatures fell as low as -20C and it stayed below freezing during the day for some weeks.
That winter my husband (a diabetic) suffered frostbite in one of his toes and the nurse called in twice a week for nearly four weeks to treat it.
Our heating bills (oil) are over €2000 per year and we need the winter fuel allowance. To take it away cannot be right as it would cause real hardship.
Mrs J Freeman, 16500 Saint Maurice Des Lions
Bad news about the Winter Fuel Allowance! I was 84 in August and my wife is 80 and in the 13 years that we have lived here (Pontours, near Lalinde) the temperature has been getting lower each winter. Last Christmas it was -16C followed by -10C for the New Year.
With no increases in pensions and the increase in the price of fuel, the immigrant problem for the UK could worsen with those of us going back to vote the Government out at the next election!
Ken Day, Dordogne
I lived in SW England for more than 50 years and now in my 80s am denied Winter Fuel Payments, just when life depends on keeping warm throughout the year in order to maintain a reasonable standard of health.
As a gardener in UK I sowed my parsnip seed in February but here in Brittany I can only expect reasonable germination if I delay sowing to April. Nature knows what George Osborne fails to understand. Moreover, both my pensions are taxed in UK, and I don't even get a bus pass, not that there are any buses of trains anywhere near here in any case!
John Craske, Brittany
The government is keen to make everyone suffer for the mistakes that they and the banks made. For over five years there have been low interest rates for savers, workers have had to either take pay cuts or go without pay rises and all this time energy companies have raised prices and profits. I am amazed that civil unrest has not taken place.
This temperature test is another barmy Osborne idea: what a load of rubbish.
Jim Bostock, by email