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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Labour calls for TV licences to be kept free for pensioners in Notts

Last month’s controversial decision by the BBC to ask most pensioners to pay for their TV licences is set to be discussed in Nottinghamshire, with Labour calling for the decision to be reversed

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Last month’s controversial decision by the BBC to ask most pensioners to pay for their TV licences is set to be discussed in Nottinghamshire, with Labour calling for the decision to be reversed.

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Around 3.7 million more people are expected to have to pay for their licence, at a cost of £154.50 a year from 2020.

Not all pensioners will pay – those receiving pension credit will be exempt from the move.

The BBC said it was the Government which decided to stop funding TV licences for over-75s, and that this was the “fairest and best outcome” to avoid an “unprecedented closures of services”.

Now, Labour is bringing a motion to the Conservative-controlled Nottinghamshire County Council, calling for it to write to the Government and the BBC urging them to reconsider their decision.

Leader of the Labour group, Councillor Alan Rhodes, who represents Worksop North is proposing the motion.

Speaking before the debate on July 11, he said: “We are calling on this council to write to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, (Jeremy Wright) to ask him to consider the consequences of this action, particularly in view of the fact that this government had pledged to maintain free TV licences ‘for the duration of this parliament’, which is still ongoing.

“We are also requesting for a letter to be written to the BBC to ask if they too will reconsider their decision, as we believe it will cause further isolation and loneliness to many elderly, frail and ill people across this county who are already feeling the effects of austerity and may not be able to afford this extra expense.

“TV is a lifeline for many elderly and vulnerable people in our Nottinghamshire communities, and removing the free TV licence from the over 75s is callous and cruel.”

A spokeswoman for the BBC said: “It was the Government who decided to stop funding free TV licences for all over 75s, and Parliament gave the BBC the clear responsibility to decide and consult on the future policy.

“If the BBC were to fund free licences for all over 75s it would mean unprecedented closures of services and make the BBC substantially worse for all audiences, so we chose the fairest option by helping the poorest older pensioners.

“We want to raise the visibility of pension credit and have already written to charities and older people’s groups to work together to do this.

“We have started a public information campaign which includes using our airwaves and writing to all 4.6 million households setting out the new scheme.

“We hope that pensioners will consider claiming as they could then be eligible for around £2,500 and other benefits as well as a free TV licence.”

A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “We’re very disappointed with this decision – we’ve been clear that we want and expect the BBC to continue this concession.

“People across the country value television as a way to stay connected, and we want the BBC to look at further ways to support older people.

“Taxpayers want to see the BBC using its substantial licence fee income in an appropriate way to ensure it delivers for UK audiences, which includes showing restraint on salaries for senior staff.”

The motion will be debated at County Hall on July 11 at 10.30am.

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