Are pensioners set to lose their free TV licence too?

Plans to cut fuel allowance may set precedent


The BBC is considering means-testing the free television licence for the over-75s, encouraged by Tory plans to do the same thing with pensioners' winter fuel allowance.

Currently, one in six households, or around 4.36 million people, get their licence free, rather than paying the £147 fee.

However, the BBC is now being urged to consider scrapping this benefit when it takes over responsibility for licences in June 2020, and has asked consultancy Frontier Economics to look at the options.

What the General Election means for pensioners

It's not the first time that the benefit has come under threat, but removing it has been seen as too unpopular in the past.

Now, though, the Conservatives have pledged to means-test winter fuel payments for pensioners, removing the benefit from up to ten million people.

And there's a perception that if the public can accept the loss of the winter fuel payment, they can accept the loss of the free television licence too.

"I can see a case for means-testing on the same grounds of why should a rich retired person get a winter fuel payment, so why should they get a free TV licence? former culture secretary John Whittingdale tells the Sunday Times.

"But these are matters for the BBC to consider. They could get rid of the free TV licence altogether."

However, the BBC says it's far from making a decision to withdraw or means-test the benefit, saying in a statement: "The BBC has no plan to make any changes to the current over-75s policy."

Up to now Conservative cuts have tended to hit young people hardest. However, the party's new election manifesto makes it clear that it's the pensioners' turn.

There are plans to scrap the triple lock that has made sure the state pension keeps up with prices, increasing in line with the rate of earnings, prices or 2.5% - whichever is higher.

MPs to cut pensions and benefits to help social care crisis

The Conservatives have also said that they plan to make drastic changes to the way social care for the elderly is funded if they win the general election on June 8.

People needing social care will have to find it themselves through the sale of their home, and will only be allowed to ring-fence £100,000 to leave to their family.

It's not the first time that means-testing pensioner benefits has been suggested - but many people are concerned that doing so will hit pensioners who are far from wealthy.

State pensions should be axed for rich pensioners

"The SDLP has been warning that part of Theresa's May rationale for calling this election is to free herself from the commitment not to make further welfare cuts 'in this Parliament'," comments SDLP South Down parliamentary candidate, Margaret Ritchie.

"Many over-75s rely on the free TV licence. Particularly for those with mobility or health problems who spend a lot of their time at home, television can provide a much needed link to local news, entertainment and popular culture."

How we spend our pensions

How we spend our pensions