Daily Mail

Now look again at free li­cences for over-75s, says PM

- By Ja­son Groves Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor Boris Johnson

DOWN­ING Street yes­ter­day urged the BBC’s new boss to ‘look again’ at the de­ci­sion to axe uni­ver­sal free TV li­cences for the over-75s.

Min­is­ters ac­cused the BBC of reneg­ing on an agree­ment when it in­tro­duced meanstest­ing, mean­ing an es­ti­mated 3.7mil­lion older pen­sion­ers now have to pay the £157.50 an­nual fee.

No 10 yes­ter­day wel­comed the ap­point­ment of Tim Davie as new di­rec­tor-gen­eral, say­ing min­is­ters look for­ward to work­ing with him on ‘ re­form­ing the BBC’. Asked whether Boris John­son wants Mr Davie to ‘look again’ at the is­sue of free li­cences, the No 10 spokesman said: ‘Yes.’

He added: ‘We have said from the out­set we are dis­ap­pointed with the BBC’s de­ci­sion to re­strict the over-75 li­cence fee con­ces­sion to those in re­ceipt of Pen­sion Credit. We recog­nise the value of free TV li­cences for over-75s and be­lieve they should be funded by the BBC.’ The BBC took over re­spon­si­bil­ity for fund­ing the perk as part of the lat­est set­tle­ment on the li­cence fee.

But it said that the cost was too great. Sup­port­ers say the ben­e­fit should be paid for by the Government.

No 10 de­clined to say whether Mr John­son sup­ports the con­tin­u­a­tion of the li­cence fee. Last year, he said of­fi­cials were ‘look­ing at’ whether it should con­tinue. But his spokesman said min­is­ters were cur­rently fi­nal­is­ing a de­ci­sion on de­crim­i­nal­is­ing non­pay­ment. He said: ‘We have been con­sult­ing to en­sure there is a fair and pro­por­tion­ate ap­proach to the way the BBC en­forces and ad­min­is­ters li­cence fee penal­ties and pay­ments and one that pro­tects those most in need.’ A fi­nal de­ci­sion on de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion will be taken this month.

How­ever, the Mail has re­vealed it is al­most cer­tain to go ahead de­spite the BBC warn­ing it could cost it £1bil­lion in lost rev­enue over five years.

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