BBC TV licence: Pensioners group reveals the ‘red herring’ in over 75s licence fee row

The BBC says it cannot afford to fund free TV licences for over 75s and plans to means-test older people by giving it only to those who receive Pension Credit. Jan Shortt, the general secretary for the National Pensioners Convention, told that there was a “red herring” in the debate that was not true to the reality. The NPC are calling on Boris Johnson to keep his pre-election promise and retain universal benefit for over 75s.

Ms Shortt told “We’re told that this is to combat the wealthy people who don’t really need the free TV licence.

“Well, to be honest, the free TV licence has to be applied for.

“You don’t get it automatically when you become 75.

“I’m sure Richard Branson and Alan Sugar and all the other wealthy people don’t even bother applying for it.”

She continued: “It’s like the bus pass, they don’t need the bus pass, they’re driven by chauffeurs.

“It’s an absolute red herring this being about rich people.

“Boris needs to step up, put his hands up and say ‘what we’re doing is wrong’.

“The Government needs to take that back and pay for free TV licences for everybody over the age of 75.”

Ms Shortt also spoke about the impact on ordinary pensioners: “As far as we’re concerned, you cannot legislate against people living in poverty, not having enough money to eat, not having enough money to heat their homes. That’s what it will mean.

“For those people on Pension Credit, I’m happy for them, they’re safe, but there are people who are just, a couple of pennies, a couple of shillings, a couple of pounds above the threshold.

“Those people have to pay everything because Pension Credit is a gateway to other benefits. It’s those kind of people who’ll be pushed into poverty.”

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The universal refit was first introduced in 1999. However, the clock is now ticking down to the May 31 deadline when it will be repealed.

The current fee for a TV licence is £154.50, but it will be raised by £3 to £157.50 for colour TVs from April 1

The Prime Minister is on record as saying it was “crucial” to retain the benefit and he aimed to thrash out a new funding formula with the BBC, who were passed the £745million bill for the benefit by the Government.

Speaking in November, Mr Johnson said he would hold talks with the BBC as the issue needed “sorting out urgently”. However, he has made no mention of the issue since.

The NPC strongly believes the Government, not the BBC, have responsibility for funding the free over 75s licence as part of a wider package of universal pensioner benefits in lieu of a decent state pension.

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