This is how many pensioners will lose their free TV licences in Doncaster and the Dearne

Thousands of local pensioners will lose their free TV licences after the BBC announced the concession for over 75s will be linked to Pension Credit.

Wednesday, 12th June 2019, 14:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th June 2019, 15:19 pm

The Conservatives’ 2017 Manifesto promised to protect free TV licences until 2022. But two years earlier they had devolved responsibility for the policy, and the cost, to the BBC.

John Healey, MP for Wentworth & Dearne, was a Treasury minister and part of the team to bring in the free licences when Labour was in government in 2000.

Thousands will be affected

The decision this week means that, from next year, 4,360 households in Wentworth & Dearne will lose their free TV licence, costing a collective £656,180 annually.

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Some 18,700 households in Doncaster could also be affected.

John said: “This is yet another broken promise and another Tory policy that punishes pensioners.

“Millions of elderly and isolated people will lose because of this.

“I’ll fight this every step of the way.”

On 8 May, Labour passed unopposed a motion stating that any changes to existing licence concessions must be subject to Parliamentary consent. Labour will push to have that motion upheld.

*Currently a free TV licence is available to all households that have at least one person aged over 75. Free TV licences for over-75s were introduced in 2000 by the Labour Government.

The 2017 Conservative Manifesto promised to “maintain all other pensioner benefits, including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences, for the duration of this Parliament”.

However, the Government had already outsourced this social policy by shifting the cost of these licences to the BBC in its 2015 Royal Charter.

From 2018/19 onwards, responsibility for the policy and funding of licence fee concessions will move over to the BBC, who will be singularly responsible from June 2020.

The BBC can decide what to do with the benefit from 2020 and they consulted on a number of options including scrapping the free TV licence concession altogether, raising the eligible age to 80 and means testing it.

Labour opposed this move at the time, and throughout the passage of the Digital Economy Act.

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.

1.3m poorer over 75s are eligible for pension credit, but don’t claim the benefit – so they will lose their free TV licences.