The end of the free TV licence for over-75s will feel like a “kick in the teeth” to pensioners, campaigners have said.
The controversial change was originally due to be made on 1 June, and the BBC said the delay had cost £35m a month but was delayed and kept under review for two-month because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The cost of continuing to provide free licences to all over-75s could have reached £1bn a year over time with an ageing population, according to the corporation.
The BBC said the new scheme is “the fairest decision”, but the government said it was “the wrong decision”
Age UK said the start of means-testing will feel like a “kick in the teeth” to pensioners and called on the Government to “sit down with the BBC urgently” to work out a deal.
That means more than three million households will be asked to start paying the £157.50 fee from 1 August.
Only those who receive the Pension Credit benefit will be exempt.
BBC chairman Sir David Clementi claimed that “implementation of the new scheme will be Covid-19 safe”, adding the “BBC could not continue delaying the scheme without impacting on programmes and services”.
Outgoing director-general Lord Tony Hall (Justin Tallis/PA)
Over-75s who receive the free TV licence, which costs those who pay £157.50, will have to receive pension credit.
“Critically, it is not the BBC making that judgment about poverty. It is the Government who sets and controls that measure,” Sir David said.
The BBC has been under “severe financial pressure due to the pandemic”, he added.
He went on: “I believe continuing to fund some free TV licences is the fairest decision for the public, as we will be supporting the poorest, oldest pensioners without impacting the programmes and services that all audiences love.”
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said the Prime Minister disagreed with the move.
Despite the warnings from @ageukcampaigns and others, the Government plans to force many vulnerable and lonely elderly people to make a very difficult decision. This is cruelty at its worst. pic.twitter.com/QiQVZUH6x0— Ian Lavery MP (@IanLaveryMP) July 9, 2020
Ian Lavery MP said: “We have had the hugely concerning news today that the Government is pushing ahead with its plans to take away free TV Licenses from millions of over 75 year olds.”
Despite the fantastic work done by Age UK and others to warn about the risks of doing so, they will be taking access to a free TV License away from 6010 elderly people in Wansbeck.
This clearly crosses the line from willful ignorance to intentional cruelty and a total lack of compassion and care.
Today Age UK have started a campaign saying:
Age UK have asked anyone with a Twitter account to tweet this this
We're bitterly disappointed by today's #TVLicence decision. This is a kick in the teeth for millions of over 75s who have had a torrid time during this crisis.— Age UK (@age_uk) July 9, 2020
We urge @10DowningStreet and the @BBC to urgently sit down and agree on a solution to keep TV licences free. ? pic.twitter.com/5Vy3RxhjWG
“We won’t stop fighting to save free TV licences. Together over 630,000 of us signed our petition, wrote in our thousands to the Prime Minister and kept this issue in the headlines for well over a year.
We believe the Government should never have handed this welfare payment to the BBC in the first place and it’s time for the Government to step in and work with the BBC to save it.”
The BBC have said no one will be expected to pay for a new licence until they have been contacted by a letter from TV Licensing and either claimed a free licence or agreed a payment plan. We will let you know when the BBC send out their official letters and tell you what they look like. For now, if you are over 75 please ignore any emails or letters you receive asking you to pay your TV licence as they may be a scam. You can find more information here.