Published On: Mon, Sep 2nd, 2019

BBC TV licence ‘loneliness’ warning for Boris Johnson – ‘You made a promise to pensioners’ | UK | News

Mr Watson is calling on Chancellor Sajid Javid to announce measures to save free TV licences for the over-75s when he delivers a mini Budget this week. He said: “We are experiencing a loneliness epidemic. For those who are housebound or live entirely on their own, television is a window to the wider world.”

He continued: “Four out of 10 older people say that TV is their main form of company, and a bill for £154.50 will mean financial hardship.

“This spending review is an opportunity for this Government to honour its manifesto commitment to older people by funding free TV licences for over-75s.

“Failure to do so will ensure that every pensioner in Britain will know that a Tory Party promise can’t be trusted.”

The BBC was given responsibility for funding the free licence scheme from June 2020 but said it would cost an estimated £745million a year to maintain and in June announced it would have to be axed.

The decision, which means the free licences will only be given over-75s who receive pension credit benefit, sparked outrage and urgent calls for the corporation to reconsider.

Pensioners’ groups such as Age UK have been putting pressure on the BBC but said David Cameron’s Government was to blame for the cutbacks.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson savages BBC for removing free TV licences for over-75s

Age UK director Caroline Abrahams criticised the BBC but also pointed out the failing of the then government for the original deal in 2015.

Ms Abrahams said: “It’s not surprising that the BBC’s decision to invest £100 million in ads targeting young people has provoked raised eyebrows, to say the least, since as things stand our over-75s are set to lose their free TV licences.

“The Government is to blame for putting these free TV licences at risk because it passed the responsibility to the BBC with no strings attached and without the money to fund them.

“However, the BBC’s action is bound to lead some older viewers to feel they don’t matter very much and that’s a real shame.”

A BBC spokesman said previously: “It was the Government who decided to stop funding free TV licences for the over-75s and Parliament gave responsibility to the BBC to make a decision on the future of the scheme.

“There was no guarantee that the BBC would continue to fund free licences for the over-75s, as the Culture Secretary at the time has confirmed.

“We’ve reached the fairest decision we can in funding free TV licences for the poorest pensioners, while protecting BBC services.”

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