Scrapping free TV licences is ‘daylight robbery’ BBC told
●300,000 Scottish pensioners stand to lose out under move to means testing
Charities have warned thousands of S cotland’s poorest people could be forced to give up their T Vs following the BBC’S decision to means test licences for the over-75s.
More than 300,000 S cots will b e hit by the decision to make the concession available only to households receiving pension credit, leaving many pensioners without a service they say is their main form of company.
Age Scotland said around 76,000 pensioners aged 75 and over in Scotland do not receive pension credit even though they are eligible. Older people who just miss out on the benefit will also struggle to pay the bill and could be pushed below the poverty line.
Only around 1.5 million households Uk-wide will be eligible under the new scheme, which comes four years after the UK government revealed plans to withdraw funding for the £154.50 licence, which was previously free to over-75s.
Rob Gowans, spokesman for Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “We have concerns that linking the provision of free TV licences to people who are claiming pension credit will hit some
of the most vulnerable households hardest. We already know that there are problems with eligibility and uptake of pension credit, in that many people who are entitled to it don’t claim it. If this change goes ahead, those people will miss out on both pension credit and free TV licences.”
The move follows a consultation with 190,000 people, of which 52 per cent were in favour of reforming or abolishing free licences. The benefit was introduced by thenLab our Chancellor Gordon Brown in 2001.
However, four years ago the UK government announced it would no longer subsidise the cost of the licence fee and the BBC would have to find the funding itself.
Mr Brown yesterday described the decision as “the wrong decision made in the wrong way by the BBC”.
He said: “It should not be an agency for means testing pensioners. Any costs should be covered by the government without endangering BBC services.”
Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “This is a kick in the teeth to the thousands of older people who are already struggling to stay on top of rising living costs. If this goes ahead, then we will see lonely and vulnerable people in their 80s and 90s, who depend on their TV for company, forced to give it up.
“40 per cent of Scottish older people who are eligible for pension credit do not claim it and will now face yet another annual bill that they can’t afford.”
As part of the charter agreement that came into affect in 2017, the BBC would take on the burden of paying for free licence fees by June 2020.
The new agreement will cost the BBC around £250 million by 2021/22 depending on the take-up of the means tested scheme. The broadcaster has said that if it bore the full financial burden of the free licences, the extra cost would have meant “unprecedented closures”, including shutting down the BBC Scotland channel, as well as BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, Radio 5 live and a number of local radio stations, as well as other cuts and reductions.
The National Pensioners Convention( NPC) has condemned the BBC for attempting to frame the move as fair.
NPC general secretary Jan Shortt, said: “There is no doubt that the BBC has done the government’s dirty work for it.”
BBC chairman Sir David Clement is aid it had been a “very difficult decision”.
He said: “We think it’s fair to those over 75, but also to all our audiences for whom there was no appetite for the level of cuts that would have been necessary if the concession had been extended.
“We know we have a loyal audience over the age of 75 and we think many of them will understand the difficult position we are in.”
Politicians slammed the decision. A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We are very disappointed with this decision. We have been clear that we expected the BBC to continue this concession.”
SN PM P Hannah Bar dell said: “This isn’t ‘a compromise’ from the BBC or the UK Tor y Government. This is daylight robbery of pensioners across the UK.”
0 Over-75s who do not receive pension credit will have to pay for their TV licences in future