I am deeply disappointed with the BBC’s decision to scrap free TV licences for the Over-75s. This decision is ultimately the result of the UK Government shifting what should be a welfare policy on to the BBC and shirking its responsibility to support older people.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has signed a letter to the Prime Minister urging the UK Government to stop free TV licences for over-75s being scrapped. The letter was signed by every leader of Scotland’s major parties, except the Tories.
The 2017 Tory manifesto promised to “maintain” pensioner benefits, “including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences, for the duration of this Parliament.” The UK Government need to explain why they are breaking their promises on this, and move now to ensure that our elderly population do not suffer from this ill-thought out proposal.
After years of Tory austerity, and the deep financial uncertainty that Brexit is causing, the last thing that our elderly population need is to have an extra £150.50 added to their household bills.
At a time of rising pensioner poverty as a result of Tory austerity cuts, it would be wrong to take away the free TV licence scheme. The UK Government offers the lowest state pension in the developed world – and older people need more financial support, not less, particularly when living costs are rising.
Having access to television can provide an important window to the world, for those who suffer from loneliness, and live a long way away from their families.
The BBC’s plan to introduce a means-tested waiver based on Pension Credit will fail to help many vulnerable people yet still cost it around £250 million by 2021/22. Those funds should be spent on developing new programmes and supporting our creative economy.
It is estimated that over 300,000 Scots will be hit by the BBC decision. The UK Government should recognise its responsibility and fund free licenses for over 75s.