Ministers hold URGENT talks with BBC as TV licence fee row threatens to boil over

BBC licence fee: Charging over 75s 'is wrong' says Williams

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Government officials and the BBC are in talks about how to “further support older people” just weeks before the annual licence fee increases by £1.50. The Government this week said the annual fee would increase from £157.50 to £159 from April 1, 2021, with black and white licences rising from £53.00 to £53.50.

Government officials and the BBC are in talks about how to “further support older people” just weeks before the annual licence fee increases by £1.50.

The Government this week said the annual fee would increase from £157.50 to £159 from April 1, 2021, with black and white licences rising from £53.00 to £53.50.

But the BBC said the new cost equates to 43p per day and is value for money.

Speaking in the House of Lords this week, Baroness Stedman-Scott, Welfare Minister said: “We have written to the BBC.

“Officials have had a meeting with its representatives and we are awaiting the outcome of that meeting.

“As I say, this is a work in progress.”

It comes after free licence privileges for most over-75’s were removed last August, with only those receiving pension credit entitled to a free one.

Ministers said keeping licences free for all over-75s would cost £745million by the next financial year.

Labour Peer Lord Davies of Brixton claimed the Government approach to the fee had been “shameful”.

Colleague Lord Foulkes has also tabled a Parliamentary question regarding the issue and claimed the Tories broke a 2017 manifesto promise to protect the benefit for at least five years during that Parliament.

Addressing the Welfare Minister, the Chairman of Parliament cross-party group on older people, said: “The Minister will recall that many of us were concerned about the loss of free TV licences for those aged over 75, which broke a Conservative manifesto promise.

“Now only those on pension credit get free TV licences.”

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It comes just days after campaigners claimed the BBC was “harassing” and “terrorising” OAPs for not paying their TV licence fee.

Letters sent to over-75s told recipients to “arrange payment” or apply for a free licence if they were entitled to them before further action is taken.

Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices claimed to Express.co.uk up to three or four reminders were being sent.

Mr Reed added: “If an older person is getting three of four reminders through the door, you could call that harassment.”



Lord Ian Botham has also written to BBC Director General Tim Davie to make a pledge no over-75s would be prosecuted for failing to pay the licence fee.

The retired cricketer and Life peer said in the letter: “In my view, this is institutional bullying on a massive scale and there seems to be some kind of blame game between the BBC and government.

“I’m no politician but this feels like a real scandal affecting the very frail that needs sorting out.”

Separately, he also claimed TV licence inspectors were ”terrorising” pensioners over its enforcement of the TV licence.

BBC licence fee increase is slammed by hosts

In response, a BBC spokeswoman said: “The BBC has repeatedly said that we are willing to work with government and charities on the smooth implementation of the new policy after the government ended funding.

“We have done so and will continue to do so.

“The vast majority of over-75s have now moved to the new system with only a small proportion now remaining.”

The BBC stressed over the last six months, they had sent “two reminders to those left explaining the simple steps to take and reassuring them that they have plenty of time to get set up.”

They added: “We are not visiting households registered as having held a free over-75s licence.

“As a result of the latest lockdown measures TV Licensing has currently suspended all visiting activity.”

A TV Licensing spokesperson, added: “We have implemented these changes with the greatest care and have worked to make the process as fair and straightforward as possible.”

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