TV star Len Goodman has criticised the “rotten” withdrawal of free TV licences for all over-75s, saying it will “impact on the most vulnerable”.
Strictly Come Dancing’s former head judge said he was not blaming the BBC and that the Government should never have handed over responsibility to the broadcaster.
The 75-year-old told the Press Association: “It’s a sadness. I do understand that the BBC are between a rock and a hard place.”
But he added: “There are so many people that live alone and quite often these people are extremely lonely.”
Goodman went on: “The decision was made by Gordon Brown to give this. Now it’s been taken away. Once you’re given something, it’s very difficult when it’s taken away from you.”
The BBC has said free licences will be means-tested under a new scheme which aims to protect programming while dealing with the extra funding burden.
Free licences will be restricted to over-75s who claim Pension Credit from June 1 2020.
But Goodman said: “It will impact on the most vulnerable, the most lonely and the poorest.”
The Dancing With The Stars judge added: “I’m not a politician, I’m just a dance teacher from Dartford, but I think it’s rotten.
“I wish the Government would say ‘We gave that, maybe it would be better if we continued to give it.’
“In the scheme of things, with the billions and billions that the Government spend on this, that and the other, it’s a pee in the ocean.”
He said: “I feel sorry for older people; maybe their families live miles away, some people don’t see anyone for weeks on end.
“They’ve got their pension and that’s about it. And to take another £150 … I don’t know how you decide who is the poorest and who’s the most deserving.
“I’m 75 and 100% not deserving and there are tens and thousands of people similar to me who could well afford to pay their licence.
“But there are hundreds of thousands for whom it would impact on their standard of living. A lot of people don’t even know what the Pension Credit is. They don’t understand it.
“Maybe the Government and the BBC should go 50/50 and pay half each. I’ve met lots of older people during my time visiting, for Age UK, and I do know that a lot of people’s lifeline is watching the telly.”
He added: “Everyone likes to bash the BBC but they do a wonderful job.”
His comments come after Ben Fogle said the Government should be held accountable for its “poor decision” and made to reverse it.
The BBC presenter said he is “ashamed” at how older people are being treated and he is supporting the charity Age UK’s SwitchedOff campaign to save free TV licences for those over 75.
Fogle, who pledged to donate his entire salary from this year’s series of the BBC’s Animal Park programme to subsidise TV licences for pensioners, said he is concerned for those who will not be able to afford the cost of a licence from next year.
The former Countryfile star told the Press Association: “I’m ashamed to say that we as a nation are not looking out for those who fought and risked their lives for us all – they deserve better.
“TV brings great comfort to millions of older people who live alone and those who are housebound – no doubt helping them to keep informed, entertained and connected to the outside world. I just can’t believe this is being taken away from them.
“My grandparents loved the BBC and would have been lost without their TV, but if they were alive today they could have afforded a TV licence.
“It’s those who are struggling to get by and can’t even afford the basics that I’m worried about.”
He added: “Why has the Government passed on what is essentially a welfare benefit to a media broadcaster? They should be held accountable for this poor decision and made to reverse it. Older people should be allowed to keep their free TV licences – it’s the least we can do.”
Massive thanks to @Benfogle for lending his support to our campaign to save free TV licences. Our petition is over 400,000 signatures and counting! Join our #SwitchedOff campaign and help save free TV licences for over 75s: https://t.co/aDFsPxS0r5
— Age UK (@age_uk) June 13, 2019
His comments came as Age UK’s petition to save free TV licences, calling for the Government to continue picking up the bill, hit more than 430,000 signatures.
Through the campaign, the charity is calling on all candidates for leadership of the Conservative Party to take back responsibility for the funding of free TV licences for over-75s if they become prime minister.
In a joint statement released on Monday, the BBC’s chairman, Sir David Clementi, and director-general Tony Hall said continuing the Government’s scheme would have had a “severe impact” on services and that the new model “represents the fairest possible outcome”.
Only around 1.5 million households will be eligible for a free TV licence under the new scheme.
It is thought that around 3.7 million pensioners will lose out.