By SEHERISH MAHMOOD
Tracy Brabin MP has called on the Government to urgently intervene in plans that could see 6,000 older people across Batley and Spen lose their TV licence.
Across the country, millions of people are set to lose their free TV licence in 2020, despite the Conservatives promising in their 2017 general election manifesto to protect the scheme until 2022.
Responsibility for the scheme will pass to the BBC from June 2020 – but the Government have failed to provide any funding, putting its future at risk. The BBC are currently consulting on a number of options for the concession, including scrapping it altogether, raising the eligible age to 80 and means testing it, for example by linking it to pension credit.
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said: “This will come as a huge blow to thousands of households in my constituency who will be left to foot yet another bill.
“Television can be a lifeline for older people who may be isolated and lonely or have limited mobility, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet. It was completely wrong of the Tory Government to pass responsibility for the scheme to the BBC, without any funding.
“The Government needs to tell us urgently what they are going to do to honour their manifesto promise and ensure free TV licences are protected for the millions of people who rely on them.”
New figures, compiled by the House of Commons Library, show that 6,040 households in Batley and Spen are at risk of losing their free TV licences – and this could affect as many as 24,630 households across Kirklees. If the age threshold is raised to 80, 2,430 local pensioners will lose their TV licence locally and if free TV licences are means tested, 4,300 people will lose out.
Free TV licences are an important benefit for older people who suffer disproportionately from loneliness and social isolation. The Campaign to End Loneliness found that 40% of older people say their television is their main source of company.
The Christmas period is a particularly bad time for loneliness. Analysis by Age UK found that almost a million (873,000) pensioners wouldn’t have seen or heard from anyone between Christmas and New Year.