FURIOUS pensioners will stage demonstrations across the country tomorrow in a last ditch attempt to save free TV licences.
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Thousands of senior citizens have also vowed to press ahead with a campaign of direct action against bill collectors. Leading campaigner Lord Foulkes warned there is just 24 hours to save the perk for the over-75s and called on the government to stage a last minute intervention. BBC bosses are imposing the £157.50 on the over-75s from Saturday for the first time in 20 years.
Members of the National Pensioners’ Convention will take to the streets in London, Newcastle, Oxford, Norwich, Liverpool, Irvine and Belfast in protest.
General Secretary Jan Shortt said: “The free TV licence for all over 75s is a universal entitlement to supplement our poor state pension.
“To force people to find the money to pay for it now, particularly during the pandemic when they rely on their TV’s for information, is just cruel.
“That is why the fittest and healthiest of our older members will put on their masks and gloves – and pop sanitiser in their pockets – to join static, and socially distanced demonstrations around the country.”
BBC TV licence fee protest: Thousands will protest on Thursday
BBC headquarters in London
Older people’s group Silver Voices said its members will begin their plan to “gum up the works” of TV Licensing.
The group is urging everyone over 60 to cancel direct debits and pay by cheque instead to cause chaos for the organisation that will collect the bill.
Director Dennis Reed said the BBC willingly took over responsibility for the free TV licence and had five years to plan and budget for it.
He accused the corporation of being “lazy and cynical” in agreeing to exemptions for people on pension credit knowing that many eligible pensioners do not realise they are entitled to it.
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Mr Reed said: “The BBC has had years to budget so that it could continue to provide free licences for the over 75s but now it is pleading poverty.
“The only real poverty from this decision is for millions of older people who will struggle to pay the licence fee of £157-50, which is approximately equivalent to one week’s state pension.
“Scrapping the free licence during a pandemic which has hammered the physical and mental health of the over 75s is beyond belief.
“From Saturday our direct action against TV Licensing will reflect the fury of older people about this decision”.
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Early this month the BBC announced it will impose the annual fee on most over-75s from August 1 despite campaigners warning it will leave some pensioners choosing between food and heating or television.
Lord Foulkes, who chairs the All-Party Group for Ageing and Older People, said there was just 24 hours to save the licence and called on the government to take urgent action.
“The clock is ticking down to midnight on Friday when hundreds of thousands of older people will be faced with the possibility of increasing loneliness or increasing poverty,” he said.
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