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Pensioners vote to boycott TV licence fee

written by Bella Palmer

The Silver Voices group said 90% of its members aged 75 and over supported the move

Rebel pensioners have overwhelmingly backed a boycott of paying their TV licences, a poll revealed.

The Silver Voices group said 90% of its members aged 75 and over who responded to an email survey supported the revolt.

An estimated 3.7 million OAPs were stripped of the benefit in August after the Tories broke an election manifesto pledge to preserve free licences for the over-75s until at least 2022.

Director Dennis Reed, who has led an increasingly bitter backlash against the Government and BBC, said: The over-75s are now taking the only action they can to stop this universal benefit being scrapped permanently.

Remember, this benefit was introduced to compensate for the very low level of the UK state pension in comparison to other countries and to recognise the importance of television access for older people, he said.

Reed said, with the second wave of the pandemic confining millions of seniors to the safety of their own homes, the added burden of the licence fee is needed like a hole in the head. Older people have had enough of being ignored, neglected and picked upon and, through Silver Voices, are now fighting back.

Of the 600 of its members who responded to the statement: “I am 75 years or older and I am prepared, on principle, to refuse to pay my TV licence in support of the campaign to restore free TV licences for my age group”, 538 agreed and 62 were against.

Free TV licences for over-75s were introduced by Labour in 2000.

But instead of celebrating the 20th anniversary of the concession, millions of pensioners were robbed of the lifeline, now worth £157.50-a-year, after the Conservatives ditched a promise to protect the benefit.

The party pledged at the 2017 election to maintain over-75s' free licences for the rest of that Parliament, which was due to run for five years.

But the BBC had already been handed responsibility for funding the lifeline from June 2020, under a deal agreed in 2015.

It said keeping licences free for all over-75s would cost £745million by 2021-22.

The corporation announced restrictions from August 1, meaning only over-75s who receive Pension Credit are eligible.

Mr Reed held a video call with BBC chief Tim Davie last week to try and thrash out a solution, but they were unable to reach a deal.

Silver Voices wants the corporation and the Government to strike an agreement to restore free licences.

Labour peer Lord George Foulkes, who chairs Parliament's cross-party group on ageing and older people, hopes to avoid a “stand-off which could result in prosecutions of poor pensioners and hugely bad publicity for the BBC”.

But he added: Ultimately it is the Government’s duty to fulfil their promise to older people and the Secretary of State should broker a deal to resolve the dispute.

The Government has criticised the BBC for means-testing.

A BBC spokeswoman said: Since the policy change 2.4 million over-75 licences have been applied for, 700,000 of which are applications for free licences paid for by the BBC. We are happy to engage and work constructively with anyone on over-75s' licences. This situation was not down to the BBC, but a solution had to be found and a tough decision had to be taken.

The spokeswoman said, we have done all we can – including the biggest consultation in BBC history – to make this process as fair and straightforward as possible and we continue to implement these changes with the greatest care.


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