THOUSANDS of South Yorkshire pensioners have seen their winter fuel allowance slashed by £100 after a temporary top-up in the payments came to an end.
The news has sparked fears that the lives of some elderly people may be at risk if they are deterred from keeping their homes warm enough this winter because of rocketing gas and electricity bills.
Chancellor George Osborne decided not to extend an increase in the allowance introduced by the previous Labour government in his budget last March.
It means people aged 60 to 80 will receive a maximum of £200 per household and over 80s no more than £300.
The amount is £100 less than last year for both groups.
Letters have been sent to elderly people by the Department for Work and Pensions about the change.
It comes after South Yorkshire Community Foundation launched a campaign backed by The Star which urges affluent pensioners to donate their winter fuel allowance to help those in poverty.
Peggy Robinson, aged 89, of Beauchief, said: “There are many people who find it difficult to keep warm because of the cost. The reduced payments will make it harder.”
Jean Gleadall, aged 77, of Wisewood, added: “If the Government is having trouble with funding, they should stop paying the allowance to expats in Spain.
“The winter fuel allowance should also be means-tested – the rich don’t need it. Reducing the allowances could put people off heating homes.”
Sheffield Shiregreen and Brightside Labour councillor, Peter Price, who is a member of the Sheffield Pensioners’ Action Group, called the decision to end top-up payments ‘an attack on pensioners’.
But he conceded that his party’s old Government should never have allowed expatriates living in places such as Spain to claim.
He said: “I can’t defend that – it’s ludicrous.”
A spokesman for Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said: “We have just ensured the biggest rise in the state pension for years.
“While the fuel allowance top-ups are ending, we are guaranteeing £25 cold weather payments for each seven day period of cold weather.”