Duncan Barkes: Winter fuel allowance for those on the Costa?

I DON’T wish to depress you, but a report from some top economists predicts that austerity will be with us until 2020.

ut despite this, Downing Street has blocked plans to save this country a few quid.

The Government is going to continue to give money to expat pensioners.

It is not fashionable to voice praise for Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, but I think he has got one of the toughest jobs in the land. Overseeing the welfare budget is a Herculean task, and his reform of the system is the biggest shake-up since the welfare state began. Last week, he wanted to stop pensioners living in hot countries, such as Spain and Greece, from receiving the winter fuel allowance – a benefit designed to help pensioners afford to heat their homes during the increasingly harsh British winters. Strasbourg ruled that all expat OAPs on the Continent deserved the cash (worth up to £300 a year), not just those who retired in the UK then moved abroad.

This means an extra 120,000 expat pensioners will get cash, while basking in winter temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius.

The cost of this to the British Government is an extra £30million a year. IDS immediately drew up plans to defy this ruling, only to be overruled by Downing Street.

This Government is broke. The last government spent it all. Funding to local councils has been slashed, resulting in a reduction or closure of local services. We are all fully aware of how this has affected people in West Sussex. You may argue that 30-million quid is only a drop in the ocean. I believe we should be looking at every possible saving. The tiresome argument I always hear is that it would be unfair to target expat pensioners in this way, as they have paid into the system all their lives and it is only right they get their dues. What rubbish.

National Insurance contributions are made in case you fall on hard times and require state assistance. It is not a savings scheme.

I do not consider expat pensioners enjoying sub-tropical temperatures on Christmas Day to be enduring any hardship. Downing Street has let the country down by allowing this waste of our money to continue.