'It's disgusting' - South Tyneside communities and MPs have their say on BBC's TV licence changes
An online poll completed by 1,736 people revealed that 91% of those who took part think this benefit, introduced in 2001 by Labour, should continue. Only over-75s in receipt of Pension Credit will continue to receive a free licence from June 2020.
This is when the BBC takes on official responsibility for the scheme from the Government.
The Conservative Party’s 2017 general election manifesto pledged to protect pensioner benefits, including the free licence, for the duration of this Parliament, which could technically run until 2022.
Ahead of the announcement, Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn had expressed concerns about how pensioners in his constituency would be affected if the free TV licence was scrapped.
Speaking of the decision, he said: “This disgraceful decision is an invention of the Tory government.
“This outcome was easily predictable after it outsourced a social policy to get the BBC to do it's dirty work.
“The pensioners deserve better and they won't forget.”
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck said: “TV should not be a substitute for real human contact but sadly it is a lifeline for so many older persons, with loneliness and pensioner poverty on the rise we now see this utterly contemptible Government outsourcing their public policy duty and reneging on their manifesto promise.
“As a result nearly 4,000 pensioners in Shields are set to lose their free television licence.”
Here is what Gazette readers had to say on Facebook:
David Turnbull: “Shouldn’t even be a debate! Should be scrapped all together.”
Marion Nicholson: “It’s disgusting when old people depend on their TV for company if nothing else.”
Jack Pearce: “Free TV licence for over-75s is the second-best thing the Labour Government has done, the first being the NHS.”
Diane Ford: “Licence should be scrapped anyway but taking away from pensioners yet again!”
Sadie Abdu: “Yes disgusting making OAPs pay for TV licence.”
Carl Mason: “Would love to hear what the 9% of people on this poll have to say about not giving the free TV licence.”