27 Jan, 2009 @ 10:13
2 mins read

We couldn’t give a damn

brian morgan

Brian MorganEx-RAF officer slams ‘insulting’ letter that lays out British attitude to pensioners in Spain

A BRITISH pensioner has slammed the UK Government for an apparent blunt refusal to help pensioners in Spain.

Brian Morgan, 72, was stunned to be told by the Department for Work and Pensions that it was more concerned with his counterparts in the UK.

In an “insulting” letter, a civil servant wrote that the UK Government would not help the estimated 350,000 UK pensioners in Spain.

He insisted there was no “legal requirement” to do it and added: “The Government’s priority is to help pensioners living in this country (England) and it will continue to help them so they are able to have a decent income in retirement”.

The former RAF intelligence officer – who has seen his pension drop by 200 euros in over a year – is furious that he and tens of thousands of other pensioners are being fobbed off.

“I am so damned angry. This is highly incompetent and very insulting,” Brian told the Olive Press from his home in Torreblanca, near Fuengirola.

Bank bail outs

“He is insulting every British pensioner in Europe. Just at a time when they they are bailing out banks yet again to the tune of £300 billion.

“It is quite clear that they don’t give a damn about pensioners living in Spain.”

His moves to get something done began in August when he started writing a series of letters to Prime Minister Gor

don Brown.

“I told him I was 42 per cent down in income and was having to dig deeply into my savings. I explained that soon I would be left with no savings and could not live on my state pension alone.”

His first reply came on October 3 from a functionary who told him that if he was really feeling the pinch he could get help from Spanish social services. “But everyone knows that is not true,” he explained.


So angry was he with the reply he wrote again on November 19, to which he finally got a reply on December 30.

Written by civil servant Ben Aston at the Department for Work and Pensions, the letter initially showed some sympathy for the exchange rate – which has seen the pound drop from 1.4 to 1.1 euros in a year.

But it went on to say that the Government could not provide any relief, adding that the department would only step in if there was a “legal requirement.”

And this is despite people like Morgan, who moved here for health reasons on the advice of the NHS.

He had moved to Spain ten years ago after doctors explained that his wife Gwynneth, who suffered from acute bronchitis and has since passed away, would survive longer if they lived in a hot climate.

Morgan explained that the drop in the value of his pension coupled with inflation has left him considerably worse off.

After paying his 1200 euro community charge he is only left with enough money for food.

“And even then things are tight. I bought six bananas from Waterloo station last summer for just £1 and when I got back to Spain I discovered they were 2.83 euros for the same amount. Spain is not cheap any more.”

He even claims that Spanish pensioners, not to mention those from Scandinavia and Germany, are better off than the British.

And he insists that even if he wanted to sell up to go back to the UK that would now be impossible with the current property market.

“I would happily downgrade to a smaller apartment and even consider going back to the UK if I could sell up.

“I know a lot of people who are really suffering and having to be bailed out by friends or charities like Age Concern.

“Some people are living on bread and marmalade and hardly go out.

“I paid my contributions for 44 years, four more than the requirement and yet my pension has been cut dramatically. It is so unfair.

“I can hardly afford to go out. When I do I can only afford beer, rather than wine and I have to be very careful about my electricity and heating bill.”

He has since received letters from Conservative leader David Cameron and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg sympathising with his plight, but making no concrete promises.


  1. I find this such a difficult issue. While I sympathise I can’t help wondering why this is an issue the government in the UK should be expected to shoulder.

    It’s a personal choice to move abroad and if the cost of living goes up there why would we expect the government back home to bail us out? Things change in the world economy and we should be responsible for dealing with those changes ourselves. It just isn’t realistic to demand a higher pension because we’ve chosen to live in a country where sterling is no longer worth as much. I doubt anyone would be offering part of their pension back if the exchange rate changes had been in the opposite direction. If there was a neverending pot of cash in the UK I’d say give some to pensioners here but there isn’t. As awful as the situation is for many it is a risk that has always existed when planning a move abroad with a fixed income from your home country.

    Unlike much of the world at least Brits know they can always go back to the UK where they may be poor but they will be housed and fed, no question. Brits are never stuck abroad there is always a choice.

  2. This does not surprise me at all. The UK has always hated old (and young) people. One may as well rob banks; these OAPs have paid taxes all their lives, fought for their country in wars, and this is the response they get from the UK authorities. It is disgraceful.

    A pensioner moving to the EU should have exactly the same rights as a pensioner in the UK. Period.

  3. Btw, Catalan Gardner, there seems to be a endless pot of cash to bail out banks, and guess what, some of those many many millions of pounds of money was used to pay bonuses to these idiots.

    I personally think that this money [bonus money] should be taken back and divided up equally amongst the most needy, including pensioners.

    What have you got to say about that? Don’t keep on saying “go back to the UK” – sure there is a choice but that the choice requires many steps like selling a house first etc. Your response is very naive in that respect.

  4. I agree with Simon (and feel the anger) on the inequities of bank bonuses, but governments have little choice but to bail out banks as without them the economy would completely collapse. This would cause far greater hardship for everybody concerned.

    Pensioners or anyone choosing to move to another country take a risk, as Catalan Gardener says. We were all happy when the exchange rate was in our favour, but exchange rates can go down as well as up as we are now experiencing.

    I don’t expect the UK government to bail me out if I don’t live in the UK. I think we have to live with our decisions and wait for things to get better in the coming years.

  5. Logically,I can’t understand exactly what response Brian Morgan expected OTHER than the one he received? He and his wife decided to come to live in Spain, OK through circumstances beyond their control (health reasons)similar to our own but NO-ONE put a gun to their head I presume?Where he refers to paying his “contributions” 44 years, 4 years more than necessary yet his pension has been cut is all very self-sympathetic but incorrect that’s because male pensions contributions have just been limited now to a maximum of 40 years NOT 44 as previous and his pension is the same but appears reduced due to the poor exchange rate!Personally, I believe the way the UK treats and HAS always treated its elderly people is little short of a disgrace and something that ALL Politicians and the so-called House of Lords should be terminally ashamed-but will not be simply because they are shameless.We seem to find money to help anyone and everyone except OUR OWN and please DO NOT FORGET that Brown was the Chancellor who initiated the 5 Billion Pounds a year Income Tax grab on the Final Salary Pension Funds (still going on) that caused them to close or collapse and end retirement dreams of hundreds of thousands who had saved in them all their working lives because of bad returns. So I wouldn’t have wasted the stamp or time Mr.Morgan!

  6. We are all suffering under the credit crunch and loss of interest to our savings, we have all worked hard to save for our old age and hoped not to scrimp and save in our retirement. However our energy bills,council tax, petrol and day to day living costs have escalated in the UK and property prices have slumped and wouldn’t sell anyway to improve our cash flow. It has been a very cold winter here where many old age people have suffered, be thankful you are at least warmer in Spain !!

  7. So the exchange rate has gone against Mr Morgan. He’s not the only one. It’s also gone against me.

    I sell Spanish products into the UK and my orders have pretty much dried up. Should I also feel insulted if the British Government refuse to help me?

  8. The commentators are quite correct; there is nothing Mr Morgan can really expect from the government as it was his choice to move to Spain and it is a risk, like everything in life. It was really the tone of the letter that annoyed Mr Morgan.

    However, governments have let us down big time by allowing a massive credit boom (and bust) in the first place. They did not regulate properly. Equally of course many people were totally stupid by borrowing more than they could afford, and greedy banks took these risks on knowing that.

  9. When Mr Morgan goes out for that beer (instead of wine, which he can’t afford), I urge him to think of the British OAPs trapped in Zimbabwe, some of whom have been living on handouts for years. Things could be a lot worse for him…

  10. In fairness to the civil servant who sent the reply, he doesn’t appear to have said or implied, “We couldn’t give a damn”! In fact he showed “some sympathy”.

    So where does the headline come from?

  11. Whilst I feel sorry for Brian, can he really say that there was no advance warning of the fall in the £.

    I’m 63 and all my life I have seen the £ fall and fall against other currencies.

    Jim Rogers, of the Quantum Fund, the other half is George Soros – remember the ERM debacle, has said that there is nothing underpinning the £.

    He’s right, there is’nt, did Brian not see any of this before he made the move to Spain.

    We personally had a very good financial year last year why? Because I know that if you don’t keep a close eye on the macro-economic situation it can easily destroy you.

    If I had been more on the ball since the end of December we would have almost matched the gains on the whole of last year.

    How is this possible – don’t trust anyone engaged in financial services – they are not looking out for you – only for themselves – who do you think pays for their expensive way of life – the idiots who trust them to be honest.

    Is there really a single moron who could’nt see that property in the UK/Ireland/Spain and Portugal was not completely and crazily over-valued and I’m talking about 5 years ago. If Brian and those like him had been paying attention they would have sold out then.

    I note also that the cost of living on the entire Spanish Med coast is at least 40% more than inland. Did none of those affected now look into all this before committing themselves to living somewhere that was blighted and destroyed 20 years ago and more.

    There simply is no substitute for deep and thorough research. I berate myself frequently for not finding out about the whole ‘rural land thing’here in Spain before making the move.

    That’s my fault and nobody elses – the buck stops with me. We are sitting on cash, which I move from currency to currency as and when.

    I don’t like this because I can well forsee a day when the world will lose faith entirely in ‘pieces of paper’- would you want to be an Icelander at the moment or very possibly Irish in the near future.

    If the £ was to crash completely (Weimar republic)there could be more than 200,000 Brits destitute in Spain alone and that does’nt account for the idiots who bought French property with a Euro mortgage when their income was in £s – CAVEAT EMPTOR.

  12. Much of what I would want to say has already been said by a couple of people – in essence my view is that things are tough but we made a choice when we came here.

    However there are plenty of Brits here so if the pound declines much further people will have to club together and arrange transport so that goods can be bought with pounds in the UK. So whilst there would be increased transport costs at least if we bought in the UK we would be buying with a currency that has ‘value’ there.

  13. It is very unfortunate for those UK pensioners and indeed all those living off income generated in the UK. What might help in the future is the introduction of an option for expat pensioners to be paid in the local currency rather than in sterling. The risk of currency fluctuation would then be borne by the UK Government (and ultimately the UK taxpayer of course). In the long run these fluctuations tend to smooth themselves out. Remember when a pound was worth the equivalent of 1.70 euros? I certainly do as we were very fortunate to be changing our money into euros at the time.

  14. You can have your pension paid in local currency but only at the exchange rate on the day it is paid, so no advantage.

    No government is going to fix payments of pensions in a foreign currency!

  15. It’s not about pensioners abroad, it’s about pensioners in Spain, which looks the same, but not quite. 350.000 of them, That’s like a good chunk of pensioners off the streets of Britain, which is not such a big place anymore, you know? So it’s like the whole of Peterborough, only with nicer weather and worse curries, which are two good reasons for pensioners choosing Spain, regardless of younger taxpayers who’ll never grow old (at least they don’t seem too mature yet judging by their opinions…) As if after a life time working anybody has to put up with an idiot behind a desk when deciding what to do with their lives. So, please, pay some attention to your elders, and fuck off with your bank tricks. What it should be, it’s a fixed exchange when you get your pension, then you know whether you can or not move to a different country. That said, in Spain there’s a northern area too, where pensioners are far better catered and don’t fry so much the fish. Bit colder though.

  16. Well more snow for us over the next few days 15cms expected ! anyone like to pay my energy bill for this extremely cold winter we have had to endure this year ??

  17. What can you expect from a Country that operates a three tier (60; 65 and 75) pension system anyway?

    Politicians and Chief Executive Officers protect their final salary pensions at a rate that the rest of the population would fail to earn in a lifetime. They do this by surrounding themselves with laws and rules that that they vote in and only apply internally and woe-betide the common worker should he/she attempt to invade this private club.

    Although I can sympathise with anyone suffering hardship of any sort, I don’t see how we can blame any Government for a choice we freely make.

    I too served for 15 years in the RAF, finishing my service in 1972……..without any pension provision, as this only came about in 1974 for the rank and file. I can only hope that Mr Morgan supports the UK Armed Forces Pension Group, who for years has lobbied for the provision of pensions for personnel who gave up to20 year’s service in the years from 1940 to 1974 and were awarded no such privilege.

    Mr Brown recently prided himself on achieving pensions and status for our comrades in arms “The Gurkhas”, which we too applaud, whilst noting that he had failed to do anything for those of us at home. This action in itself speaks volumes about the hidden agenda of any Government. You can be sure that they do not include you or me.

  18. Living in Spain is a personal issue. You can’t expect our government to bail you out because YOU decided to move to Spain… If you can’t make it here, then go back to the UK….. that simple..

  19. Phredd a lot of good points there. I would add that German war widows, all of them including the widows of soldiers in SS units that murdered with inpunity received a pension 5 times greater than British war widows.

    The robber barons never went away, they just changed from suits of armour to business suits. The problem is that Brits like the Spanish are too passive – go take a look at the French – their pensions, their conditions of employment and their world class health service – in France you pay high taxes but you get to see where your money goes.

  20. The real facts are that the British State Pension is the lowest as a percentage of average earnings in the EU.. If we are all EU citizens then we should all get the same State Pension. Most British Pensoners would be happy with this.

  21. If you want a pension at the level of other EU countries with higher pensions, then you have to be prepared to pay much higher taxes as in Germany, Denmark, Sweden etc. The people in those countries pay around 10% more tax than people in the UK.

    Because of this they have better pensions, better care and social services. In the UK we want tax cuts and better pensions and social services….. not possible in MHO.

  22. I agree that whilst pensioners in spain may be suffering from a lower pension due to a bad exchange rate, it has always their choice to move here and maybe they should have been more realistic when they made that decision. Don’t tell me a pensioner cannot afford to fly home when you can get flights for 5 pounds!!!!! Even if they sell property here they will now benefit from the exchange rate when changing euros to sterling. I am currently out of work, recieving no benefits at all, and have two children, my partner earns less than a 1000€ a month. So while we can all feel sorry for the pensioners don’t forget everyone else!!!

  23. Glad to see I’m not the only one wondering why we can’t be responsible for ourselves a little more…

    Simon I agree the banking fiasco is just that, and the bonuses are extraordinary BUT you can’t just say give that money to the pensioners overseas. What about schools, hospitals, snow ploughs, fireworks etc etc. Everyone would like more money going to different services and would argue why their cause is the most worthy BUT the world just isn’t perfect.

    We need to get on with living in the situation we’re in not wishing for something that just isn’t going to happen.

  24. Optimist,
    well said but that’s the problem is’n it. Too many Brits want something for nothing – no such animal has ever been seen on planet Earth and never will be.

    I know of only one British couple who in my estimation have made a good property buy here in Spain, all the rest ‘thought’ they were buying cheaply – they will never be able to sell or if they do, they will have to find another idiot and they will have to lie their heads off – sounds a little bit like southern England to me.

    No, the government did’nt have to bail out the banks. All those that think, believe the bullshit from government. The banks concerned should have been allowed to go bankrupt.

    Those with pensions invested in the markets and did’nt have control over asset allocation have seen their pot drop by 35% at least.By allowing the bad banks to go to the wall this loss would only have increased by about 5%.

    Those with SIPPS and other similar pension arrangements IF they were on the ball could have gone to cash and I don’t mean into £Sterling.

    As for buying goods from home, surely that is only for those who have never really come to live in Spain. I have zero sympathy for those who have never changed to the ‘local diet’. I hear of rigid idiots that insist on eating ‘roast beef (if you can get it) and two veg. in the blazing heat of summer.

    I have more bad news for those who refuse to scan the financial horizon – inflation.

    You cannot go crazy with printing more and more paper money and not store up a veritable tsnunami of inflation – give it 2 years and see how much everything will go up in price and for some things this is happening today, right now.

    We shall be moving to France in a few months, so in preparation some 6 months ago I looked at wood burning stove/central heating/hot water ranges.
    I selected a particular German make, which is not sold in France but can be bought in the UK.

    At the time I saw the differential between the home (German) market and the UK prices. Unbelieveably due to higher taxes, the German price was €1,700 more than in the UK. I looked again last week – that differential is gone, wiped out by the fall in £Sterling.

    Japanese industry is going mad, it cannot sell, why, because as late as July 2008 it was £1=217Yen, now that reads £1=134Yen.

    So supposing you have a business in the UK that uses Japanese products, your whole business depends on using Japanese products, what are you going to do. How many businesses use German products – same story.

    How is Zapatero going to fund all this borrowing right here in Spain by offering mortagages on Spanish property, which now are worth less than cost. When the European bank sees this the credit will dry up and what happens to Spain then.


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