Paula Sherriff MP has spoken of her concern for more than 6,000 elderly people in Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton who could lose their free TV licence next year.
The TV licence is currently available free of charge to all households that have one or more people aged over 75 living there.
From June 2020, responsibility for the scheme will be passed to the BBC – but despite the Conservative manifesto promise to protect free TV licences until 2022, they haven’t provided any funding for the scheme, putting its future at risk.
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 altogether, raising the eligible age to 80 and means testing it, for example by linking it to pension credit.
Miss Sherriff has highlighted figures compiled by the House of Commons Library which show that 6,310 older households in Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton are at risk of losing their free TV licences.
The changes proposed by the BBC in their consultation could see the age threshold raised to 80, which would mean some 2,600 (41% of those currently eligible) local pensioners lose their TV licence. If free TV licences are means tested then 4,670 (74% of those who are currently eligible) 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 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.
Paula Sherriff MP for Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton said:
“I am completely opposed to this move – 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 clearly knew what would happen if they passed this scheme to the BBC without providing the funding needed. They should 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.”
The BBC has launched a consultation, which will run until 12 February 2019, to gather views on the best way forward. Click here to take part.
You can also show your support for the Labour campaign to Protect the Over 75 TV Licence and share your experiences here.