Winter fuel allowance to be extended into 2010

THE government said yesterday it would guarantee higher winter fuel payment of £250 for pensioners and £400 for pensioners over 80 for another year.

Analysts said this measure would cost the government £600m.

Last year was the coldest winter in 30 years and coupled with high energy costs it left many pensioners struggling to pay their fuel bills.

The Conservatives said this winter put the number of pensioner households in fuel poverty – when a customer spends 10 per cent or more of their annual income on energy bills – at more than 2.4m. This is a fourfold increase on the number of pensioner households in fuel poverty in 2004.

Age Concern and Help the Aged charity director Michelle Mitchell said: “The news that the winter fuel payment will not be cut this year is very welcome. However, this won’t be enough to help millions of pensioners living in fuel poverty.”