Luke Pollard MP Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport
- Those over 75 will no longer qualify for a free TV Licence automatically
- Any household with someone aged over 75 who receives Pension Credit will be entitled to a free TV licence paid for by the BBC
- TV Licencing will be writing to all over 75 licence holders with clear guidance. For those who now need to pay, they have a range of options and can choose to pay weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, if they don’t want to pay the licence fee all in one go.
- The new scheme covering the over 75s licence fee concession on 1 August this year.
The BBC delayed the introduction of the new scheme as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The scheme will now move forward and begin on August 1.
You do not need to take any action until you receive a letter from TV Licencing. However, there is a free telephone information line where customers can access recorded information on the new policy by calling 0800 232 1382 and information can also be found on the TV Licensing website www.tvl.co.uk/age.
The Government took the decision to stop funding for free licences in 2015 and Parliament – through legislation – gave the responsibility to the BBC Board to make the decision on the future of the concession. At the time of the settlement in 2015, both Government Ministers and the BBC were clear that reform of the concession was a possibility; and no pledge was made by the BBC that the concession would be continued.
The BBC consulted on this issue and over 190,000 people took part, the largest consultation the BBC has ever run, and there was a small majority in favour of reform. The BBC Board believes the new scheme – which starts on the 1 August – is the fairest option to help the poorest pensioners. It is also the fairest option for all licence fee payers, as this means everyone will continue to receive the best programmes and services that the BBC can provide.
The new scheme means households – which include someone aged over 75 in receipt of Pension Credit – will be eligible for a free TV licence, funded by the BBC. Around 1.5 million households could be eligible and 450,000 have already applied for a free licence.
The new scheme will cost the BBC around £250 million by 2021/22. It will require the BBC to divert some spending on programmes and services, alongside continuing to find new savings while expanding its commercial revenue to cope.
Continuing with the Government scheme would have cost £745 million. In practice, this would have meant closures of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5live, and a number of local radio stations, as well as other cuts and reductions. These closures would profoundly damage the BBC for everyone, especially older people who use the BBC the most.
Since the original decision was made to introduce a new scheme, the BBC has been subject to further financial pressures as a result of the pandemic, which means it must save an additional £125 million, on top of an existing significant savings programme. Delaying the introduction of the scheme has cost the BBC over £70 million and we cannot afford to delay any further without further impacting programmes and services which are already being cut back due to our savings programmes.
The changes will come into effect on 1 August 2020. People aged 75 or over will remain fully covered by their existing free licence until 31 July. No one will be expected to pay for a new licence until they have been contacted by letter from TV Licensing and claimed a free TV licence or agreed a payment plan.
Luke Pollard MP said:
“I have campaigned hard against the removal of free TV licences for the over 75s. I recognise that the BBC has had its budget cut by the same amount as the free TV licence costs by Government. This leaves very little room fort the BBC. I do not believe the BBC should be responsible for social policy and I do believe that the Government should have stuck to its manifesto promise of keeping free TV licences. They have clearly made the calculation that it won’t cost them electorally. I am very worried that many people in Plymouth will not be able to afford a TV licence and I am encouraging people to apply for Pension Credit to ensure they are receiving the support they deserve and also getting to keep the free TV licence.”