South Tyneside MP hits out at TV licence threat to pensioners

Thousands of pensioners in South Tyneside could lose their free TV licences
Thousands of pensioners in South Tyneside could lose their free TV licences

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn has warned that thousands of pensioners in his constituency could lose their free TV licence if the BBC scraps free TV licences for the over 75s.

The move is part of a range of cost-cutting measures - currently the subject of consulations - and Mr Hepburn says this could could see older people across the country losing their TV licence in 2020 - despite the Conservatives promising in their 2017 general election manifesto to protect free TV licences until 2022.

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn.

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn.

As part of the last BBC charter the Government devolved responsibility for the free TV licence policy, and the cost, to the BBC.

The broadcaster can decide what to do with the cash from 2020 and they are currently consulting on a number of options - including scrapping the free TV licence concession altogether, raising the eligible age to 80 and means testing it.

New figures produced for the Labour Party by the House of Commons Library show that 5,900 older households in the Jarrow Constituency are at risk of losing their free TV licences.

If the age threshold is raised to 80, 2,150 local pensioners will lose their TV licence. If free TV licences are means tested 3,940 will lose their free licences.

Mr Hepburn MP said: “The Tory Government knew what it was doing when it forced the cost of paying for free licences for over 75s out to the BBC.

“Labour was completely opposed to this and we are still firmly of the belief that the Government was totally wrong to outsource a social policy in this way.

“It will be a terrible blow to older people who already struggle to make ends meet and particularly to those who are housebound or isolated and rely on their TV for company.”

He added: “The Government needs come clean and to tell us urgently what they are going to do to ensure free TV licences aren’t cut and they don’t break their manifesto promise. If they do nothing, responsibility for older people losing their TV licences will rest firmly with them.”