Cam­paign­ers brand 20% rise de­spi­ca­ble as pen­sion­ers lose free TV li­cences

Daily Express - - FRONT PAGE - By Giles Sheldrick Chief Re­porter

ANGER erupted last night af­ter the BBC ad­mit­ted hand­ing pay rises of over 20 per cent to hun­dreds of staff while axing free TV li­cences for mil­lions of pen­sion­ers.

Cam­paign­ers slammed the huge in­creases as “de­spi­ca­ble” and an in­sult to ev­ery­body over 75.

The fresh storm broke as fig­ures showed 889 peo­ple who work for the tax­payer-funded

broad­caster got in­creases equal to be­tween 10 and 20 per cent of their salaries last year. A fur­ther 256 re­ceived more than 20 per cent.

The av­er­age rise was £6,980 in in­fla­tion-bust­ing pay pack­ages that cost li­cence fee pay­ers £7.9mil­lion.

That amount could main­tain free TV li­cences for 51,000 over-75s, who from next year will be forced to pay for the first time in two decades.

Jan Shortt of the Na­tional Pen­sion­ers Con­ven­tion said: “It’s an in­sult to ev­ery per­son over 75.

“This kind of treat­ment to­wards the older gen­er­a­tion is de­spi­ca­ble – it’s like grab­bing money from the least able to pay.”

The pay rises come as the BBC said it could not af­ford to un­der­write the cost of con­tin­u­ing to fund free TV li­cences for OAPs.

From June 1 the con­ces­sion will be means tested, with only the most im­pov­er­ished pen­sion­ers in re­ceipt of Pen­sion Credit still get­ting it.

The rest, some 3.75 mil­lion over75s, will have to find £154.40 a year or face pros­e­cu­tion and risk jail.

The BBC and the Gov­ern­ment blame each other for the scan­dal.

Free li­cences for over-75s were in­tro­duced in 2000. In 2015 then­chan­cel­lor Ge­orge Os­borne struck a deal with the BBC in which it picked up the bill from 2020-21 as part of its char­ter re­newal. But the 2017 Con­ser­va­tive man­i­festo con­tained a pledge to con­tinue the ben­e­fit.

Tory MP David Davies said: “If the BBC can af­ford 20 per cent pay rises for its staff it can af­ford to sup­port pen­sion­ers.”

The BBC said fund­ing TV li­cences would cost it “£745m a year and ris­ing” which it could not af­ford if it wanted to still make shows like Line of Duty, Body­guard and Strictly.

But its most re­cent ac­counts showed £159mil­lion was blown on pre­sen­ter pay last year, with Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker lead­ing the way on £1.75mil­lion.

TV is the main form of com­pany for two in ev­ery five peo­ple aged 75 and over. Nine in 10 watch it daily.

Caro­line Abra­hams of Age UK said: “The truth is the cost to the BBC of these pay rises is tiny com­pared to that of sus­tain­ing free TV li­cences. A bill of this size is a drop in the ocean for min­is­ters but a great deal for any­one else, even the BBC. That’s why Boris John­son’s new Gov­ern­ment should keep its man­i­festo prom­ise.”

Shadow com­mu­ni­ties min­is­ter Stephen Mor­gan said: “While I un­der­stand frus­tra­tion about costs of pay rises at the BBC it is not the Depart­ment forWork and Pen­sions.

“This con­ver­sa­tion ul­ti­mately dis­tracts from the real is­sue, which is Mr John­son’s Gov­ern­ment fail­ing to hon­our its com­mit­ment and de­liver on its prom­ise.”

Harry Fone of the Tax­Pay­ers’ Al­liance said: “Pen­sion­ers could only dream of 10 or 20 per cent rises in their pen­sions.

“Fat cat BBC bosses need to get the hint and be cut­ting back on these bumper wage bills.”

Ac­tress Dame He­len Mir­ren, 73, has led calls to keep freeTV li­cences.

In an open let­ter to Boris John­son, she urged “all those in­volved to do the right thing”. The BBC said: “It’s only right that when peo­ple are pro­moted or take on ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­i­ties it’s re­flected in their salary.”

A Gov­ern­ment spokesper­son said: “We are very dis­ap­pointed with the BBC’s de­ci­sion. Tax­pay­ers want to see the BBC us­ing its sub­stan­tial li­cence fee in­come in an ap­pro­pri­ate way, which in­cludes show­ing re­straint on salaries.”

Stars in­clud­ing Lineker, left, cost £159m. Dame He­len, above, wants con­ces­sion on TV li­cence, be­low

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