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Fuel allowance - the French connection

Max Cotton
Max Cotton
The Politics Show

Politics Max in France

Politics Max is back in action - this time reporting on an issue that, at first glance, may seem to be "rather rich" in the South of France - but as he finds out, that is far from the truth.

Great story. People who have retired to the south of France are complaining they are not getting their £200 a year winter fuel allowance.

It is a bit like Bernie Ecclestone ranting about the price of petrol.

Here are these people, living on private incomes in the sun, trying to take advantage of a benefit for old folks who have to go to bed on winter nights because they can not afford to put the fire on.

And they have deserted their country to buddy up with the auld enemy...

Robert and Max
Max hears the tales of winter woe from Robert

I travelled down to the Languedoc-Roussillon to meet the ex-pats sipping their pink gins as they soak up the vitamin D on their sun loungers by the pool.

Robert and Sandra, have a little villa outside Quillan, down by the Med.

I was prepared, on your behalf, to give them a piece of my mind on network television.

Out in the cold

To be honest I was a bit shocked.

Robert was Bob, a retired police constable from Derby, their villa, a modest two bed-roomed bungalow.

But what shocked me most was the temperature.

It was freezing… much colder than the UK with snow forecast and everyone duffled up to their eyelids.

Bob and Sandra moved to France when he retired because they thought it would be cheaper than trying to live on their small pension in the UK.

Max talks to villagers
There are many ex-pats in the same position as Robert

They have hundreds not thousands of pounds a month to meet all their bills.

The age factor

Bob and Sandra both pay tax in the UK - Sandra is still paying her NI stamps.

They are an ordinary couple, for whom £200 would make a real difference to their lives in the winter months.

But they do not qualify for winter fuel allowance because Bob was 58 when he left the UK - and as he turned 60 while living in France he does not qualify.

I met many ex pats there - most of them in very similar circumstances, and no one offered me a pink gin.

No sympathy

Terry Rooney MP
I think he's got a bit of a nerve, to be frank
Terry Rooney MP

I put their case to the Chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, one Terry Rooney, a Labour MP with a traditional set of values.

He said of Bob the retired policeman: "I can't believe that £200 is making the difference between a life of luxury and penury. And actually I think he's got a bit of a nerve, to be frank."

Bob responded: "I think we're on or below the UK poverty line. I think he's arrogant and out of touch.

"We live here on a modest police pension, there are many other families in the same situation and he shouldn't forget that we all have a vote."

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