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Decision to axe free TV licence for over 75s ‘stripping away vital lifeline amid pandemic’ says city MP

After a two-month delay due to Covid-19, plans to scrap the universally free TV licence for the over-75s are once again underway. The decision to scrap the vital benefit for older people was first made in 2015 when the Conservative Government forced the responsibility onto the BBC.

Since then, Stephen Morgan MP has consistently been vocal in his opposition to government snatching away this popular benefit, working alongside the Portsmouth Pensioners and Age UK as well as hundreds of constituents. The move announced today has angered many especially as the Tories stood on a 2017 election manifesto pledge not to roll back benefits for older people.

The Portsmouth South MP has undertaken a series of actions lobbying for Portsmouth pensioners including seeking the views of all constituents affected; writing to two Culture Secretaries lobbying for government to revoke the decision; speaking out in favour of keeping the benefit during parliamentary debates; grilling Ministers in the House of Commons during relevant questions; submitting a string of targeted written questions to the department responsible; and writing a joint letter with the Portsmouth Pensioners Association to the Prime Minister.

On today’s announcement, Stephen Morgan MP said:

“Government has not only snatched away this vital lifeline for some older people, it has then cowered away from ownership of the decision and tried to shift blame onto the BBC.

That means more than three million households will be asked to start paying the £157.50 fee. I know from speaking to hundreds of local residents that for some that will mean choosing between loneliness and hunger.

Of those set to lose out we know that 900,000 are veterans who have served this country, 500,000 suffer from Alzheimer’s and 1.3 million are eligible for pension credit but unable to claim it. This means those losing out are truly the most vulnerable in our society.

Today’s announcement is hugely disappointing for thousands of Portsmouth’s pensioners who have contributed so much to society. This is a simple benefit giving back to those who have contributed a lot”.

Free TV licences for the over-75s had been provided by the Government since 2000, but responsibility for the provision was passed to the BBC as part of a fee settlement.

The cost of continuing to provide free licences to all over-75s could have reached £1bn a year over time with an ageing population and would have accounted for one fifth of their overall budget, meaning government left the BBC no choice.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens MP said:

“The refusal of the government to fund this vital service after promising to do so is nothing short of betrayal.

Many over-75s have spent months at home with TV providing an invaluable source of company during the pandemic. For the government to blame the BBC who are having to contend with huge cuts is simply passing the buck.”