UK government strips over 75s of free TV licences

Arran’s MP Patricia Gibson has hit out at the UK Government over their treatment of pensioners during a Westminster debate last Wednesday which demanded that the Tories honour their 2017 manifesto pledge to maintain free TV licences for the over-75s.

From 01 April, the colour licence fee increased to £154.50 a year.

All households with someone aged over 75 are currently entitled to receive free TV licences, funded by the UK Government to help tackle pensioner poverty and isolation. Despite their manifesto pledge, the Tories will cease this funding completely, pushing the cost onto the BBC, along with the decision on whether or not to maintain it.

If the BBC decides not to charge, it will have £745 million less to spend annually on programmes. Options currently being considered by the broadcaster range from them footing the bill to maintain the concession, seeking partial payment from elderly pensioners, or charging them the full fee, which many would struggle to afford.

Leading in the debate, Mrs Gibson said:

“Public welfare is not a BBC remit, and it should not be expected to decide whether older people have free TV licences or not. The Tories are abandoning their manifesto pledge to maintain pensioner benefits, including free TV licences. How can older people trust what they say? This attack on older people comes hard on the heels of women born in the 1950s being denied of their pensions with little or no notice and the eligibility for Pension Credit being changed for mixed-age couples which could cost some households £7,320 per year.

“If free TV licences are scrapped in June 2020, more than 600 of my Arran constituents will be affected. Combating loneliness and isolation is crucial for health outcomes for older people and many who don’t get out need the comfort and information a TV brings.

“This policy is mean-spirited. The UK Government needs to stop attacking our older people, accord them the care and respect they are due, and cease making life more difficult for them.”