Thank you for contacting me about the future of the TV licence fee for pensioners.
The BBC’s decision to stop funding free TV licences for all over 75s from June 2020 is very disappointing.
For most of us, television is an important connection with the outside world that informs and entertains us. It also has a role in keeping people company, and this can be especially true for older people. I know from my own relatives and constituents just how important television is in their lives. This is why I was disappointed that the BBC announced the most narrowly defined option for reform of the over 75s concession.
My colleagues and I take the issue of loneliness seriously, which is why I am proud that the Government has introduced a Minister for loneliness and a loneliness strategy, the first ever of its kind. It is not right that some people go for days, weeks or even a month without seeing a friend of family member. To support the Minster’s work in this area, the Government has committed over £11 million to pay for several projects under the Building Connections fund, which will give people greater access to befriending services and support schemes across England.
It is important to note that revoking the licence fee concession was the BBC’s decision and not the Government’s, after Parliament legislated to give the BBC the full responsibility from 2020. This was part of a deal the Government reached with the BBC over four years ago, which the BBC described as a good deal that provided financial stability to the organisation through inflation linked increases of the licence fee and the closure of the so-called iPlayer loophole.
As you will be aware, even under the BBC’s current plans, the poorest pensioners will continue to be helped, as the BBC stated that those eligible for Pension Credit will still receive a free TV licence. However, I do not believe that this is the end of the conversation about what the BBC can do to assist older people. My colleague, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has already met with the BBC to press them to consider what further help they can provide.
Currently not everyone who is eligible for pension credit is claiming it. Constituents who believe they may be eligible should look on www.gov.uk/pension-credit-calculator to check and get an estimate of what they may receive. People wishing to claim Pension Credit can also do so by calling 0800 99 1234.
Whilst I understand the concern about the BBC’s decision, I am proud of the Government’s continued efforts to support pensioners. There are a number of pensioner benefits, including Winter Fuel Payments, free bus passes and free prescriptions.
Cold Weather Payments have also been increased, and the Warm Home Discount was introduced to provide vulnerable pensioners with a £140 rebate on their energy bills. I hope this reassures you that the Government is backing pensioners who have worked hard and contributed so much to our society.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP