I am deeply concerned about the UK Tory Government's plans for breaking a manifesto pledge on free TV licences for older pensioners and have written to Jeremy Wright MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport urging for a rethink on this issue. You can see a copy of my letter below.
All households with someone aged over 75 are currently entitled to receive free TV licences, funded by the UK Government to help tackle pensioner poverty and isolation. The Tories will withdraw this funding completely from next year, insisting the concession is a matter purely for the BBC.
Age UK have warned that scrapping the concession would push 50,000 over 75s into relative poverty.
More than 9,000 of my North Ayrshire and Arran constituents are over 75 and each would be detrimentally affected if the concessionary licence is scrapped.
According to the BBC’s own figures, scrapping the over 75s concessionary licence will take an average of more than £22,000 a week out of the pockets of over 75s in every single UK constituency.
For many older people, their television is a lifeline - particularly for the most vulnerable older people. Many rely on their TV for companionship and entertainment as well as helping them stay up to date with what's happening in the world.
The BBC is a broadcaster. Public welfare is not its remit and it should not be expected to decide this. It is the responsibility of the UK Government, and I believe it is despicable that it has abrogated its responsibility in this way and left the BBC to decide on whether to charge over 75s.
It is vital to support our pensioners. Not only is the UK state pension the lowest in the developed world relative to wages, it has been further damaged by the Tory Government’s plans to reduce the eligibility for Pension Credit, leaving some couples out of pocket by £7,320 each year.
Alongside this, their contempt for women born in the 1950s regarding increases in state pension age, makes it clear the UK Government has no intention of honouring the contributions our elderly population has made over the years.
I urge the Tories to honour their manifesto commitment and maintain pensioner benefits, including the TV licence, so that elderly people can continue to enjoy watching television for free.”