The administrative shambles has raised fears millions of OAPs will fall victim to fraudsters when they are forced to pay to watch TV next year. Mr Cheesbrough wrote to officials in 1997 telling them he would no longer be tuning in. He said yesterday: “I wrote to TV Licensing to say I was dispensing with my set and would contact them if ever I decided to get another one. Within a week I had a letter from Capita telling me I was breaking the law.”
The former bank manager, who does not use the internet, has now received his 100th demand. Each one has warned him of the consequences of watching TV illegally, a crime that carries a maximum fine of £1,000 and a potential prison sentence.
Mr Cheesbrough of Plymouth, Devon, dismissed the threats as a “ruthless, uncaring programme of inducing mental duress to require an innocent recipient to reply when they have no legal obligation to do so”.
But he warned the vulnerable could fall for similar scams and pay up without question once they are forced to cough up for their TV licences.
It comes as the BBC and the Government continue to blame each other for a scandal that will see 3.75 million over-75s forced to pay £154.50 for the first time since 2000 when the concession ends on June 1.
In 2015 then Conservative chancellor George Osborne struck a deal with the BBC in which they picked up the bill from 2020/21 as part of its charter renewal. But the 2017 Conservative manifesto contained a pledge to continue the benefit.
The BBC said continuing to fund the perk would cost it “£745m a year and rising” which it could not afford if it wanted to continue to make popular programmes like Line of Duty, Bodyguard and Strictly Come Dancing.
But its claim to be strapped for cash comes as most recent accounts showed £159 million was blown on presenter pay last year – up almost £11 million in 12-months – with Match of the Day host Gary Lineker leading the way on a salary of £1.75m.
And yesterday we revealed how 889 people working at the taxpayer-funded broadcaster got pay rises equal to between 10 and 20 percent of their salaries last year.
A further 256 received more than 20 percent. The average rise was £6,980 in inflation-busting packages that cost licence fee payers £7.9million – an amount that could maintain free TV licences for 51,000 over-75s.
Mr Cheesbrough went public when he received his 50th demand for payment, a move that prompted others to get in touch.
He said: “I had letters from a 92-year-old blind woman from Cornwall, and a 72-year-old living on the moors with no TV reception.
“I’ve had 100 letters, each threatening a knock on the door any time day or night, but no one has ever come. [They arrive] in a suitably intimidating red envelope.”
The BBC outsources collection of licence fee to Capita.
A TV Licensing spokesperson said: “We try not to trouble people who genuinely don’t need a licence. We have a duty to enforce the law and so we write to all addresses where there is no TV licence or a current declaration to say that one isn’t needed.”
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