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 they are currently consulting on a number of 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.
Figures produced by the House of Commons Library show that under each of the changes proposed by the BBC in their consultation, millions of pensioners will lose their free licences.
The House of Commons Library calculated that were the free licence linked to pension credit, i.e. means tested, 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.
The House of Commons Library has also calculated local figures with 5,130 older households in Portsmouth South at risk of losing their free TV licences. If the age threshold is raised to 80 1,880 local pensioners will lose their TV licence. If free TV licences are means tested 3,540 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% of older people say their television is their main source of company.
The Christmas period is a particularly bad time for loneliness. Analysis by Age UK found that almost a million (873,000) pensioners wouldn’t have seen or heard from anyone over the festive period.
The prospect of elderly people losing their free TV licences makes a mockery of Theresa May’s claim that austerity is over. The Government should take responsibility and save TV licences for the elderly.
Concerned by proposals, Stephen Morgan MP, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth, has written out to local people to ask for their views, and also asked The News to publish a letter on the matter to raise awareness of the issue.
Stephen Morgan MP 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 so many older people in Portsmouth who already struggle to make ends meet and particularly to those who are housebound or isolated and rely on their TV for company”.
With regards to the MP asking for the views of residents in Portsmouth he added:
“The Government needs to 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. If they do nothing, responsibility for older people losing their TV licences will rest firmly at their fee
I’ve therefore written to a number of constituents about this matter and am keen to hear views from fellow city residents and hope people get in touch with me.
Its vital that Government hear our concerns from Portsmouth and I will be following up feedback with Ministers and the BBC”.
Constituents are encouraged to get in touch with Mr Morgan by email, phone or by dropping into the constituency office at 72 Albert Road.