Barmy Government officials have been criticised for a postcode lottery which will see people in just three areas of Sussex given cold weather payments.

The £25-a-week assistance is triggered when an area's average temperature falls or is forecast to fall to 0°C or below for seven consecutive days.

But only elderly and vulnerable people living in BN5, BN6 and BN44 will get the handout – whereas their neighbours just a few miles away have to find the money themselves.

The Department for Work and Pensions issues the money to pensioners, the unemployed, severely disabled people and families with a young or disabled child.

Last night, charity chiefs expressed anger at the "ridiculous" payment system which they were only made aware of when contacted by The Argus.

Paul Bates, of Help The Aged, said: "We think this is a daft system.

"It is a ridiculous situation when pensioners in one part of one county are receiving less benefits than their neighbours further along in Sussex.

"Instead of making cold weather payments which are based on a bizarre meteorological calculation, we would much rather see a significant increase in the basic state pension so that older people can meet their living costs."

The weather in Sussex is monitored by weather stations based at Charlwood, near Gatwick, Herstmonceux and Thorney Island, in Chichester.

People living in and around Henfield, Hassocks and Steyning will get the payments because their area has been flagged up by experts at Charlwood.

The payments cover the period January 7-13 because the temperature in these areas has been forecast to consistently fall to 0°C or below.

But Mid Sussex MP Nicholas Soames was furious, and could not believe that other areas of the county had not been 0°C or below over the same period.

He said: “It is ridiculous. Clearly it’s absurd. The whole of England has been under such heavy frost, even the mainline trains have broken down.

“It is really stupid and if my constituents get in touch with me I will be onto the minister.”

Meanwhile Eastbourne MP Nigel Waterson said: "It's an absurdly inflexible system which will for example mean pensioners in my constituency who have been suffering badly from the cold spell will not receive a penny."

Cold weather benefits are paid automatically and directly into the accounts of those people who qualify.

This year the Government has raised the benefit from £8.50 to £25.

On Tuesday, the Department for Work and Pensions said cold weather payments had now been triggered at 52 weather stations around the UK since the start of this winter.

A total of 3.7m payments will be made nationwide totalling £93 million.

James Purnell, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said: “We don't want people to worry about turning up their heating when it's cold.

"That is why we've trebled the Cold Weather Payment to £25, to put money in the pockets of the people who need it most.

"Millions of vulnerable people and pensioners are now in line for this extra help after the recent cold snap."

Are you angry with the cold weather payment system? Tell us your views below.