MILLIONS of pensioners are threatening a revolt over the BBC’s “heartless” decision to axe free TV licences for over-75s.
BBC licence fee: Pensioner hits out at government over plans
Furious older viewers plan to paralyse the Beeb’s system by cancelling direct debits and standing orders and paying by cheque instead.
The revolt has already resulted in 40,000 messages being sent to BBC director- general Tony Hall. Now millions are being asked to bombard the Prime Minister’s Twitter account to protest at the over-75s losing the perk next month.
Dennis Reed, of campaign group Silver Voices, said: “If last-minute lobbying to persuade the Government to step in does not work, we will switch on our direct action and call on millions of older people to stand up for their rights.
“Our ‘gum up the works’ plan asks all those aged 60 and older to stop their direct debits and standing orders and advise TV Licensing that all future transactions and communications will be conducted by post and cheque and cash.
“We are prepared to implement our direct action campaign from August 1, and we’re looking at other creative but legal ways to further complicate payments.”
He also said: “The BBC Board has been cynical and heartless in making this decision, by deliberately fuelling speculation that there will be a further delay in implementation, in order to dilute opposition before the Parliamentary recess.”
The free licences for over-75s had been due to end on June 1 but this was delayed by the pandemic. However, from August 1, viewers aged 75-plus, who currently qualify for a free TV licence, will have to pay £157.50 unless they get Pension Credit. Around 900,000 people receive the credit yet 600,000 more are eligible and don’t claim it.
Millions to ‘gum up works’ if free TV licences axed
The free licences for over-75s had been due to end on June 1 but this was delayed by the pandemic
In total, 3.7 million people – the oldest members of our society – will have to pay the fee to save the BBC £700million a year.
The free scheme had been funded by the Government since 2000 but responsibility was passed to the BBC in 2015. There was an outcry last year when the broadcaster announced it would end it.
More than 630,000 people signed a petition set up by Age UK, which called on the Prime Minister to take action. It also organised the emails to the BBC. Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director, said: “We have been contacted by many older people urging us to keep fighting on, and that is exactly what we intend to do.” Meanwhile Jan Shortt, of the National Pensioners Convention, is spearheading the Twitter campaign aimed at Boris Johnson.
She said: “We are organising a grassroots onslaught of protest to the Government. We have 1.5 million members and we are asking each and every one of them to tweet the Prime Minister, to write to him and to email him.
“We won’t give in – we may be old but we’re not weak.
Jan Shortt, of the National Pensioners Convention, is spearheading the Twitter campaign aimed at Boris Johnson
“When the Chancellor can give millions and millions of people a cut-price meal, it’s difficult to believe they can’t give the over-75s a free TV licence.”
The Daily Express has seen a copy of the letter Silver Voices sent to Lord Hall. It says: “We are giving notice that unless the decision to curtail free TV licences for the over-75s is withdrawn, we will be calling on all those over 60 years of age across the UK to support our campaign of direct action.
“TV is often the only constant companion for the over-75s, to provide public information about the pandemic and to keep us in touch with reality… many of our members have volunteered to refuse to pay the licence fee, but we do not want them to have to stand alone. Initially we are calling on all those over the age of 60 to withdraw from direct debit arrangements and to notify you that, in future, all payments and correspondence about the fee will be conducted by cheque and post.”
Steven Cameron, pensions director at financial services company Aegon, said: “Coming at a time when many over-75s will be particularly concerned over the health risks of being out and about doesn’t help.
“Most pensioners have to get by on a fixed income and there will be some who’ll face a real challenge.”
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