BBC TV licence fury: Boris Johnson accused of ‘cruel’ plot to burden pensioners with fee

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Britons over the age of 75 were devastated after free BBC TV licences finally came to an end at the start of August. Before the 2019 election Boris Johnson said he thought it was crucial to retain the free TV licence for over-75s. Jan Shortt, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) General Secretary, told that his failure was “cruel” to pensioners.

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She said: “We consistently write to the Prime Minister about this.

“We do get responses from the ministerial team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

“We do get responses from the BBC, which is very nice of them.

“But the Prime Minister has yet to even acknowledge that we’ve even written to him, let alone reply.”

Ms Shortt continued: “All you get, if he’s interviewed about it, is him saying it’s the responsibility of the BBC, but it shouldn’t be.

“The Government of the day is responsible for welfare.

“Welfare is not the responsibility of the broadcasting company. It never was and never should be.

“To abdicate that responsibility towards the oldest and most vulnerable in the country is pretty damn cruel.”

Although Mr Johnson did call for the benefit to be retained, he had maintained that it was the BBC’s responsibility.

At a summit in summer 2019, he said: “The BBC received a settlement that was conditional upon their paying for TV licences for the over-75s.

“They should cough up.”

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The BBC argues that it cannot afford to fund all free licences for over-75s and plans to means-test older people by giving it only to those who receive Pension Credit.

A BBC spokesperson said: “It was the Government that ended funding for the over 75s licence fee.

“The BBC made the fairest decision possible to support the poorest oldest pensioners so those over 75 and in receipt of Pension Credit are now able to claim a free TV licence paid for by the BBC.

“Critically the BBC is not making judgements about poverty as that measure is set and controlled by Government.

“We agree with stakeholders who have raised concerns about how the 2015 licence fee funding settlement was conducted – we complained at the time – and the BBC Board agrees that the process should not be repeated.”

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