Resident won't give up fight in TV licence dispute

Residents at a sheltered accommodation in South Tyneside say they won't give up their TV licence battle with the council.

Monday, 14th March 2016, 5:00 am
Updated Thursday, 17th March 2016, 11:56 am
John Wilkinson and other residents are in dispute with the council over their TV licence.

Last week, disabled grandad-of-five John Wilkinson contacted the Gazette over his fury at receiving a letter saying he was no longer entitled to a shared licence.

The 67-year-old, who lives in Dundee Court, Jarrow, said that people living in the 24 separate flats have always been covered by one TV licence, paying just £7.50 each a year.

Residents meeting at Dundee Court

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But recently South Tyneside Homes sent 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 warden.

The affected residents got together with their local councillors to discuss their next steps.

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.

Mr Wilkinson said: “It feels like we’re banging our heads against brick walls at the minute but we’re not giving up.

Residents meeting at Dundee Court

“Our three local councillors came to the meeting and everyone had their say.

“When I first moved in here six years ago, the warden told me one of the great things about the place was the TV licence, it’s only £7.50 a month and it comes straight off your rent so you don’t even realise it’s gone, but that’s been taken away from us now.

“We have an off-site warden now and he must be invisible because I’ve never seen him.”

Coun Margaret Peacock, a Labour representative for the Bede ward, said: “We told the residents that we weren’t sure what the rule was and that we’d have to go away to check with the council and come back to them and let them know.”

Coun Lee Hughes, an independent representative of Putting People First for the Bede ward, said the councillors plan to work together to resolve the issue.

He said: “The officers weren’t there to give the residents the answers they needed, so as ward councillors, we’re going to work together to resolve the issue by finding out exactly what the rule is.”

Bede’s other Labour Coun Fay Cunningham was also present at the meeting.

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.”