The Government is letting down pensioners over plans to change eligibility for TV licences.
As part of the last BBC charter, the Government devolved responsibility for the free TV licence policy and its cost to the BBC. The BBC are currently consulting on arrangements for TV licences from 2020 onwards, and are considering a number of options including scrapping the free TV licence concession altogether, raising the eligible age to 80 and means testing it by linking it to pension credit.
Currently a free TV licence is available to all households that have at least one person aged over 75. Free TV licences for over 75s were introduced in 2000 by the Labour Government. The House of Commons Library calculated that were the free licence linked to pension credit over 3 million people would lose their free licence. If the eligibility age was raised to 80 over 1.8 million older people would lose their free licences. In Newport East, 6,080 households would cease to qualify for a free 75+ TV licence if eligibility were linked to pension credit; and 2,810 would cease to qualify if the age parameter was raised to 80.
The Conservative Government knew what it was doing when it forced the cost of paying for free licences for over 75s out to the BBC. Labour was completely opposed to this and we are still firmly of the belief that the Government was totally wrong to outsource a social policy in this way. Losing free TV licences would be a terrible blow to older people who already struggle to make ends meet and particularly to those who are housebound or isolated and rely on their TV for company.
The Tory Government needs come clean and to tell us urgently what they are going to do to ensure free TV licences aren’t cut and they don’t break their manifesto promise to protect free licences until 2022. If they do nothing, responsibility for older people losing their TV licences will rest firmly at their feet.
The BBC has launched a consultation, which closes tomorrow, to gather views on the best way forward: https://www.bbc.com/yoursay/consultation.pdf