A Save Free TV licences graphic from the Labour Party
A Save Free TV licences graphic from the Labour Party

Kate has expressed her concern that thousands of local older people could be set to lose their free TV licence.

The Conservatives promised in their 2017 general election manifesto to protect free TV licences until 2022. However, as part of the last BBC charter the government devolved responsibility for the free TV licence policy, and the cost, to the BBC.

The BBC can decide what to do with the benefit from 2020 and are currently consulting on several options including scrapping the free TV licence concession altogether, raising the eligible age to 80 and means testing it, for example by linking it to pension credit.

New figures produced for the Labour Party by the House of Commons Library show that under each of the changes proposed by the BBC in their consultation, millions of pensioners across the UK will lose their free licences.

Locally, nearly 6,000 older households in Stretford and Urmston are at risk of losing their free TV licences.

If the age threshold is raised to 80, 2,220 local pensioners will lose their TV licence. If free TV licences are means tested 4,450 will lose their free licences.

Free TV licences are an important benefit for older people who suffer disproportionately from loneliness and social isolation. The Campaign to End Loneliness found that 40 per cent of older people say their television is their main source of company.

Kate said: “The Tory 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.

“It will 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 government needs to tell us what they are going to do to ensure free TV licences aren’t cut and they don’t break their manifesto promise. 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 will run until 12 February 2019, to gather views on the best way forward and can be completed online here:  https://www.bbc.com/yoursay/consultation.pdf

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