Today we are issuing a rallying call to our Government to reinstate the free TV licences for over-75s.
The decision to slash free TV licences for more than three million pensioners has been widely criticised, and was described by Wakefield MP Mary Creagh as a “ruthless welfare cut”.
The Express, with our sister titles across the North, is calling on the government to work with the BBC and reassure over-75s that they will still be entitled to free TV.
More than 14,000 people in Wakefield will lose their access to free TV licences under the new plans.
Last week, the BBC announced that the government funded, free over-75 TV Licence scheme would be replaced next year.
From Monday, June 1, 2020, free TV licences will be means tested, and only households where one person receives pension credit will qualify.
Up to 3.7 million pensioners who have received a free licence in the past will now be expected to pay more than £150 a year for access to TV.
The decision has drawn criticism from the public, and more than 550,000 people have signed a petition, started by Age UK, calling on the government to reinstate the licence.
It is estimated that 5,760 people in Wakefield are entitled to a free TV licence, as well as 6,450 people in Hemsworth, and a further 6,780 in the Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford constituency.
Of these, around 14,000 pensioners stand to lose access to their free TV licences when the changes come into effect.
Your Express is calling on the government to reinstate the free TV licence for all over-75s.
For the older population, many of whom cannot leave home, or do not have anyone to spend time with, TV is more than just background noise.
According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, almost half of pensioners rely on their TV as their main source of companionship.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Make no mistake, if this scheme goes ahead we are going to see sick and disabled people in their eighties and nineties who are completely dependent on their cherished TV for companionship and news, forced to give it up.
“Means-testing may sound fair but in reality it means at least 650,000 of our poorest pensioners facing a big new annual bill they simply can’t afford, because though eligible for Pension Credit they don’t actually get it. In the end this is the Government’s fault, not the BBC’s, and it is open to a new Prime Minister to intervene and save the day.”
Mary Creagh, MP for Wakefield, said: "This Government has broken its election promise to keep free TV licences for pensioners until 2022, and, as a result, thousands of Wakefield pensioners will lose £154 a year.
“This is a tax on loneliness, and another ruthless welfare cut. I will fight it every step of the way.”
“The Government is picking pensioners’ pockets. Two Tory leadership candidates have pledged to reinstate the benefit. The rest must follow suit.”
Yvette Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, said: “It is completely appalling that the Tory Government is allowing this to happen.
"I’m calling on Ministers to urgently step in and halt this unfair plan - especially as they promised not to let it happen.
"Nearly 5,000 pensioner households in this constituency are going to be hit. Many elderly people really rely on the television as a lifeline, especially if they are lonely.
"This adds up to three quarters of a million pounds in total being taken off pensioners in our towns. It’s completely unfair on people who have worked hard all their lives.”
Ben Fogle, broadcaster, said: "I love the BBC. I think it is one of the greatest institutions in the world. But I am disappointed in the recent announcement of the abolition of free licences to the over 75s.
"I don’t entirely blame the BBC. I think the government forced their hand. I have decided to donate my entire salary for this years BBC Animal Park to subsidise licences for those over 75 who have no way of paying for a licence.
"Lets not penalise those who most value the great BBC.
“This is the least I can do for those over 75, an often neglected sector of society. Wouldn’t it be nice if we started respecting, loving and thanking our elderly population.”