The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to reinstate free TV licences for over-75s during the COVID-19 crisis, amid concerns that the decision to cut this benefit will leave millions of elderly people without television at a critical time.
As of 1 August 2020, TV licences are now only free for people over the age of 75 if they are receiving pension credit.
This dramatic cut which affects 6780 people in Harrogate and Knaresborough, comes after the Government passed on responsibility for funding the free licences to the BBC. The broadcaster has said that it cannot afford to continue funding them on a universal basis.
The Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to step in and cover the cost of providing the licence for over-75s, and ultimately to set up an independent body to review the licence fee.
Judith Rogerson, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Harrogate and Knaresborough, said:
We are in the midst of a national crisis. It is outrageous that 85% of 75-and-over households in Harrogate and Knaresborough are losing free access to public broadcasts at a time when it could not be more important, especially for those who are vulnerable or isolated.
Liberal Democrats want to see the Government step in and provide funding to reinstate free licences given the crisis we are facing. We are also calling for an independent body to review the licence fee going forward.
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport, Daisy Cooper MP, said:
With many older people still worried about leaving home due to the ongoing risk of Coronavirus, television has been a lifeline.
Responsibility for this lies firmly with the Government. They forced the BBC into a position where they had to choose between further cuts to programming or cutting back free licences.
The Government must foot the bill so millions of elderly people are not left without television during this ongoing crisis.