Thousands of Fifers are being short-changed by the UK Government’s stubborn unwillingness to change criteria for cold weather payments.
People across the country who get certain benefits can also be eligible for a pay-out if the average temperature in their area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days.
That could net Fifers £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between November 1 and March 31, and is particularly relevant as temperatures continue to plummet.
However, there are real concerns that residents living in huge swathes of central Fife are losing out due to some kind of “postcode lottery”.
Payments for people in the KY6, KY7 and KY8 postcode areas depend not on the temperature in any of those areas but on the temperature at a weather station in Leuchars – which is some 20 miles away from Glenrothes.
Leuchars, as well is being near the coast, is also roughly 50 feet above sea level, while parts of Glenrothes are about 600 feet above.
The anomaly has been highlighted yet again recently after temperatures in KY3, KY4, KY5, KY11, KY12, KY13 and KY14 all triggered potential cold weather payments due to weather stations at Edinburgh Gogarbank and Strathallan Airfield, while other neighbouring postcode areas were left out in the cold.
Joanne Anderson, from Thornton on the outskirts of Glenrothes, is just one of many people who believes the system should be reviewed.
The village’s cold weather payments are dictated by conditions at Leuchars which, at only 50 feet above sea level, can bear little resemblance to conditions in central Fife almost four times the altitude.
It is also closer geographically to Edinburgh than Leuchars by around five miles.
“We miss out every year,” she explained.
“My husband is disabled and has mobility issues so the cold really affects him, so this money would be helpful.
“I’ve also got my son at home and the heating is on a lot more at the moment because he’s not at school.
“It’s people on pre-payment meters that I feel the most for, but I think it’s time this was looked at again because there are people a few miles down the road who can get it and the weather is exactly the same.”
Glenrothes MP Peter Grant believes people are being “let down by the very system that’s supposed to help them”.
“This week we yet again saw what is almost literally a postcode lottery in the way the UK Government decides how cold it is in Fife,” he explained.
“Residents in the KY5 postcode area are getting the payment but KY6, KY7 and KY8 are not.
“Once again I have constituents who are missing out on the payment because of the side of the road they live on.
“Most people in Glenrothes saw with their own eyes the evidence that the temperature was below freezing for seven days – footpaths that hadn’t been gritted were covered in ice for over a week.
“But the UK Government chooses to measure our temperature at Leuchars, 20 miles away, well over 300 feet lower, and usually several degrees warmer in winter.
“So hard pressed families in places like Collydean were left out despite living in one of the coldest places in Fife.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The UK Government’s Cold Weather Payment scheme links postcodes to weather stations that reflect the most similar climate in terms of mean winter temperature.
“Each year we review the scheme and seek expert advice from the Met Office, taking in to account representations from MPs and the public.
“We use Leuchars weather station for Glenrothes post codes, as this has been recommended by the Met Office to be the most suitable available in the region.”