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Fuel payment needs changing - claim

PUBLISHED: 20:03 16 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:12 03 March 2010

PENSIONER groups and a Suffolk MP have called on the Government to change its "draconian" formula for making cold weather payments to the vulnerable.

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, claims the criteria to qualify for extra money for heating costs is so stringent the cash is rarely paid out.

PENSIONER groups and a Suffolk MP have called on the Government to change its "draconian" formula for making cold weather payments to the vulnerable.

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, claims the criteria to qualify for extra money for heating costs is so stringent the cash is rarely paid out.

But Chris Mole, Labour MP for Ipswich, defended the payments, saying: "I know that they are better than they were under the last Government because the criteria was reduced significantly to make the payments available more quickly."

Currently, people aged over 60 on income support can be given an extra £8.50, but only if the temperature stays at an average of 0C or below for seven days. Some people on income-based jobseeker's allowance can also qualify.

But Mr Ruffley said: "The draconian rules of seven days mean that these payments are not accessed very much. There is no point in saying money is available if no one can meet the requirements."

Under the conditions, no one in East Anglia was entitled to any more money last week despite the bitterly cold weather, caused mostly by freezing winds.

He now plans to write to the Government to express the concerns of pensioners in the region.

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, added: "People who need the money need it as soon as the temperature drops because the cost goes up as soon as the temperature drops."

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