Jarrow grandad feels ‘bullied’ over TV licence dispute

John Wilkinson is locked in a dispute with South Tyneside Homes over his TV licence.
John Wilkinson is locked in a dispute with South Tyneside Homes over his TV licence.

A disabled man locked in a TV licence dispute with housing bosses says they’re trying to “bully him” into paying for a warden he never sees.

John Wilkinson, 67, has lived in sheltered accommodation at Dundee Court, in Jarrow, for the last six years.

The grandad-of-five says that people living in the 24 separate flats have always been covered by one TV licence, paying just £7.50 each a year.

South Tyneside Homes has sent him and other residents a letter saying that they won’t be covered by the joint TV licence unless they start paying the £13.62 per week charge for the sheltered accommodation’s warden.

Mr Wilkinson, who uses a wheelchair after losing a leg in 2002 because of a blood clot, says he refuses to pay for a warden he “never sees” and that he feels the housing group is trying to “bully” him into paying the fee.

But housing bosses say that under TV Licensing Agency rules, sheltered accommodation residents are only eligible for the concessionary licence if they have the support of a warden for at least 30 hours a week, and as Mr Wilkinson has opted out of the scheme, he is no longer entitled.

The letter he received states that the Housing Plus service has been paying his warden fees for the last few years and him still being included in the discounted TV licence has been an “oversight”.

The retired scaffolder said: “When I first moved in we had a warden living here, who was lovely. I saw him all the time and spoke to him every day, but then he was sacked and we were given an off-site warden.

“He must be invisible because I’ve never seen him. About four years ago, one of the ladies was locked out of her flat and we rang the warden to come and let her in. He said he was on his way but he didn’t show up for four hours – I asked him if he’d come from Manchester.

“The service went from brilliant to rubbish and I refused to pay for it any more. Fifteen of us stopped paying, but now we’ve just received a letter, saying if we don’t pay we have to get our own TV licences.

“But I stopped paying for the warden four years ago, and they’ve just now turned around and said I can’t be included in the licence. It feels like they’re trying to bully us into paying for a warden that we never even see.”

A spokesman for South Tyneside Homes said: “The rules set by the TV Licensing Agency state that residents in sheltered accommodation are eligible for a concessionary TV licence only if they have the support of a warden for at least 30 hours a week.

“As Mr Wilkinson opted out of this scheme, he is no longer entitled to this concession.”

A spokesman for TV Licensing said: “This is not correct. One of the criteria in law for eligibility to the Accommodation for residential care (ARC) Concessionary TV Licence is that a sheltered scheme must have a person whose function is to care for the needs of the residents [e.g. a warden] and who either lives there or works there for 30 or more hours a week.

“Any resident, if they are over 60 and retired is entitled to receive the ARC concession, regardless of whether they personally receive warden services. The £7.50 fee is payable for each qualifying ‘unit of accommodation’ occupied by an eligible person.”