Charity in blunt response to Boris Johnson

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Age Scotland has said the onus is on the UK Government to provide free TV licences for older people - not the BBC

27th August 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

A charity has upped the pressure on Boris Johnson to keep a promise to continue providing free TV licenses to older people.

Age Scotland has called on the UK Government to take responsibility for funding TV licences for all over-75s, instead of blaming the BBC.

Johnson told reporters at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, that the BBC should “cough up” and continue to fund the free licences, claiming it was a condition of the broadcaster’s funding settlement.

But the BBC has said that it cannot afford to fund the universal entitlement after 2020 without cutting back services. Only over-75s who receive Pension Credit will get a free licence, meaning 300,000 older Scottish people will lose their eligibility.

The Prime Minister’s comments come despite a commitment in the Conservatives’ 2017 manifesto to keep the free licence for all over-75s, as well as other benefits for pensioners.

More than 630,000 people have signed a petition by Age Scotland’s sister charity Age UK calling on the government to restore the free licence.

Michelle Supple, Age Scotland’s director of charity services, said: “Boris Johnson is not fooling anyone when he tries to point the finger of blame at the BBC.

“The only mistake the broadcaster made was taking on responsibility for this entitlement from the UK Government without the funding to pay for it. Benefits and entitlements are the government’s remit, and the BBC shouldn’t have been put in this position.

“Unfortunately, it’s the oldest and most vulnerable members of our society who are stuck in the middle of this dispute. We’ve heard from older people up and down the country who depend on their TV and can’t afford another bill.”

Age Scotland’s research last month found that almost nine in 10 Scottish people (86%), across all age groups believe that the Conservatives should keep their manifesto promise.

Supple added: “Television isn’t a luxury for this age group – for a quarter of a million older people it’s their main form of company. This is causing an incredible amount of stress and anxiety among those who are least able to pay. Forty per cent of Scottish older people who are eligible for Pension Credit don’t claim it, and this could push them even further into poverty.

“Our research found that an overwhelming majority of Scots across every age group believe the Conservatives should keep their manifesto promise. We are urging the Prime Minister to do the decent thing and restore this entitlement for every older person.”