Once again, the Government has slipped two hundred pounds into my bank account. I'm over 60, you see, and therefore in need of a Winter Fuel Payment. Doesn't matter what my income is, or whether I am still working (I am),or whether I spend my winters, as do many Brits, on the Costa del Sol. Nope, no questions asked, it's two hundred quid tax free - more if you are a Couple.
Once you have given them your bank account details, they will slip you the money every year until you die. It's meant not so much to warm your living room as warm your heart towards the governing party (or parties). The votes of the over 60s are the ones most worth having - there are lots of us and we are more likely to vote (though I don't).
If I sent the money back, it would cost them at least two hundred and fifty quid to process my donation, so there's no point in doing that. I suppose I should give the money away but I guess most of us spend it on Christmas presents and something to raise a toast with over the turkey: "Here's to continued electoral bribery. May there be more benefits for the over 60s in 2012"
Postscript: If the government had really wished the elderly stay warm in winter at affordable cost, then instead of universal winter fuel payments it would have funded loft insulation, double glazing, new boilers, installation of gas supply, and so on. Think how much could have been achieved in a decade! Not such good news for the energy companies, of course.