A new analysis by the House of Commons Library for the Labour Party has revealed that over 11,000 households in Plymouth are at risk of losing their free TV licences, 7,000 of them with someone aged 80 or over.
Millions of older people across the country are set to lose their TV licence in 2020 despite the Conservatives promising in their 2017 general election manifesto to protect free TV licences until 2022.
Charlotte Holloway, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Plymouth Moor View, has been highlighting the threat for several months and is yet to receive a response from Conservative MP Mr Mercer to correspondence on the issue.
As part of the last BBC Charter the Government devolved responsibility for the free TV licence policy, and the cost, to the BBC. The BBC can decide what to do with the benefit from 2020 and they are currently consulting on a number of options including scrapping the free TV licence concession altogether, raising the eligible age to 80 and means testing it, for example by linking it to pension credit.
New figures produced by the House of Commons Library show that under each of the changes proposed by the BBC in their consultation, millions of pensioners will lose their free licences.
The House of Commons Library calculated that if the free licence becomes dependent on receiving pension credit, i.e. if it becomes means tested, 8,390 households in both the Plymouth Moor View and Plymouth Sutton and Devonport constituencies will lose their free licences, 5,050 of them with someone aged 80 or over. Around the country, more than 3 million households around the country would be affected.
Free TV licences are an important benefit for older people who suffer disproportionately from loneliness and social isolation. The Campaign to End Loneliness found that 40% of older people say their television is their main source of company.
The Christmas period is a particularly bad time for loneliness. Analysis by Age UK found that almost a million (873,000) pensioners wouldn’t have seen or heard from anyone over the festive period.
The prospect of elderly people losing their free TV licences makes a mockery of Theresa May’s claim that austerity is over. The Government should take responsibility and save TV licences for the elderly.
Charlotte Holloway, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Plymouth Moor View, said:
“The Tories are effectively forcing the BBC into ending free TV licences for over 75s.
“Losing a TV licence would be a real loss for many elderly people. It’s not right that the Conservative Party are shirking responsibilities to deliver on the pledges made in their manifesto just 18 months ago.
“Recently I spoke to an elderly woman living alone in Manadon who said her free bus pass & TV licence were an absolute lifeline. If we are serious about preventing loneliness and supporting people in later life this is not the way to go about it.
“Two months ago I wrote to our Conservative MP Mr Mercer asking for reassurances that his Government would not go back on their promise to maintain pensioner benefits. Does Mr Mercer think we won’t notice if his Government goes back on their word because they are hellbent on more cuts?”