British pensioners living overseas should be stopped from raking in millions of pounds in winter fuel payments, campaigners are insisting.
Charities and OAP groups will next week protest that more than £10million a year is being paid to those who have escaped the chilly UK and retired to the sun.
Some 50,000 elderly Britons who have moved permanently abroad are claiming the yearly allowance, worth between £200 and £300, which is supposed to help with winter heating bills.
Even those living on Spain's Costas and in Portugal, Greece and some tropical islands are benefiting from taxpayers' money.
As long as they register for the allowance in Britain, they are entitled to continue claiming if they move to any of 29 European countries or their overseas territories.
Under European law, benefits acquired in one member state must be paid to those who move to another.
Price hikes in the UK mean that pensioners' gas and electricity bills have rocketed in recent months, leaving many elderly people frightened they will not be able to heat their homes this winter.
But in Cyprus, for example, which enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine a year, the cost of living is around 25 per cent cheaper than in the UK. Gas and electricity bills average at least £500 less than in the UK.
On Monday, the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group (FPAG) will tell MPs there should be an urgent review of the payments.
Chairman Derek Lickorish said he will urge the Government to think again when he appears before the Commons energy committee.
'There's no doubt this is a very concerning issue as - we will be urging the Government to review its policy,' he said.
'Many of these countries do not even get cold in the winter months but the payments are automatic.
'And many more of the pensioners receiving them are higher rate taxpayers - the wealthy - and have less need for them.
'It is particularly concerning with the backdrop of the credit crunch and the fact the Government's purse strings are hugely overstretched at the moment.
'Obviously there will always be extreme circumstances in which some pensioners living abroad will be in need of funds for winter fuel but there is an overwhelming case for the payments to be better targeted.'
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, called for the payments to be scrapped immediately.
He said: "It's ludicrous that people on the Costa del Sol are getting Winter Fuel payments.
'These benefits are meant to help hard-up pensioners in Britain get through the winter, so they shouldn't be paid to expats.
'We are constantly told that the Government's computers know where everyone lives, so it should be simple to set the system not to send cheques abroad.'
Currently all over-60s on a state pension - regardless of their income level - receive winter fuel payments automatically into their bank accounts.
They do not have to prove that they spend that money on fuel bills - leaving expats able to use it for whatever purpose they like.
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: 'Winter fuel payments were introduced to provide reassurance to older people that they can afford to turn up their heating in the winter months without worrying about the cost.
'They are only paid to former UK residents living in the European Economic Area or Switzerland if they qualified for payment before leaving the UK.
'It is a universal benefit. The majority of people receiving the payment need and appreciate the financial assistance.'
Source: Daily Mail