Following a recent meeting between the three city MPs and local pensioners, Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden has hit out at plans to reduce entitlement to free TV licences for the over 75s.
The Labour Government introduced free TV licences for the over 75s. The Coalition Government devolved responsibility for the policy to the BBC, with the Government agreeing to pay for it for a while. That time is now running out and the BBC says it can’t afford to operate this policy. They are doing a consultation on getting rid of these licences or at least cutting back on the eligibility. The BBC consultation will bring in this change from 2020. The Tory manifesto said there would be no change before 2022.
The 2017 Tory manifesto said they would “maintain all other pension benefits, including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences, for the duration of this Parliament.”
The policy currently benefits 3M people.
Mr McFadden said, “Free TV licences for older people were introduced by the Labour Government because we understood that when people retire and are earning less, a TV is often an essential. The policy saves pensioners £150 a year. The Tories placed the axe over this when they shunted responsibility for it to the BBC. They said they would maintain free TV licences until the end of this Parliament but now the BBC is threatening to cut back entitlement, either by raising the age limit or means testing the benefit. If they did either of these things, over 2,000 households in Wolverhampton South East could lose out. This is a benefit and should never have been devolved to the BBC. Doing so is no excuse for the Tories to break their manifesto commitment or make people poorer. The Government should stand by their word and ensure old people can keep their free TV licenses”.
Abolition or curtailment of entitlement have a big impact in Pat’s Wolverhampton South East constituency.
The annual cost of a TV licence is £150.50. By direct debit it is £12.83 a month.
On the numbers, according to the House of Commons library, Wolverhampton South East has 5,630 households with someone aged 75 or over. We have 3420 households with someone aged 80 or over.
If the BBC reduced entitlement to those only receiving pension credit that would entitle 3390 households to receive it – i.e. over 2,000 households would lose it.
If they restricted to those over 80, again over 2,000 households locally could lose it.
Pat will continue to campaign on this issue. There is also an Age UK petition under the slogan “it’s not a license, it’s a lifeline.” which he is supporting. The link is here: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/westsussex/our-services/information-and-advice/free-tv-licence/
You can take part in the BBC’s consultation here: https://bbcconsultation.traverse.org.uk/