Tracy Brabin MP has called on the Government to urgently intervene in plans that could see 6,000 older people across Batley and Spen lose their TV licence.
Across the country millions of people are set to lose their free TV licence in 2020, despite the Conservatives promising in their 2017 general election manifesto to protect the scheme until 2022.
Responsibility for the scheme will pass to the BBC from June 2020 – but the Government have failed to provide any funding, putting its future at risk.
The BBC are currently consulting on a number of options for the concession, including scrapping it altogether, raising the eligible age to 80 and means testing it, for example by linking it to pension credit.
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said: “This will come as a huge blow to thousands of households in my constituency who will be left to foot yet another bill.
“Television can be a lifeline for older people who may be isolated and lonely or have limited mobility, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet.
“It was completely wrong of the Tory Government to pass responsibility for the scheme to the BBC, without any funding.
“The Government needs to tell us urgently what they are going to do to honour their manifesto promise and ensure free TV licences are protected for the millions of people who rely on them.”
New figures, calculated by the House of Commons Library, show that 6,040 households in Batley and Spen are at risk of losing their free TV licences.
If the age threshold is raised to 80, 2,430 local pensioners will lose their TV licence. And if free TV licences are means tested 4,300 people will lose out.
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 between Christmas and New Year.
- 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.Labour opposed this move at the time, and throughout the passage of the Digital Economy Act.
- The cost of the free licences is expected to reach £745m by 2021/22. This could be a fifth of the BBC’s budget – the equivalent to what is spent today on all of BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, CBBC and CBeebies.
- The BBC has launched a consultation, which will run until 12 February 2019, to gather views on the best way forward: https://www.bbc.com/yoursay/consultation.pdf