BBC PAY HIKE ‘AN INSULT’ TO ALL OVER-75S
Campaigners brand 20% rise despicable as pensioners lose free TV licences
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