Government should stick to manifesto promise on TV licence fee, poll says

More than four out of five (80%) of people want the Government to stick to the Conservative manifesto promise to fund free TV licences for over-75s, a poll has found.

The BBC has announced the end of the universal benefit, saying it cannot afford to take on the financial burden from the Government.

Age UK carried out research with younger as well as older TV viewers on the issue after the broadcaster said the free licence would be restricted to those on pension credit.

The charity stated that 83%  of those surveyed – aged 18 and over – said the Conservative Party should keep its manifesto promise to fund free licences until 2022.

Age UK  charity director Caroline Abrahams said the research,  published as the BBC has been criticised for handing some of its stars pay rises, reflected “solid support for maintaining free TV licences for our over-75s”.

She added: “What jumps out is how strong and consistent public opinion is on this issue, right across Great Britain – among men and women of all ages, all political persuasions, all levels of income, and in every region and country.

“Some pundits say that election manifestos are no more than ‘wish lists’, but the public clearly disagrees.”

She said the issue “raises questions of fairness towards older people, as well as undermining public trust in politicians”.

“Our research shows that the next Prime Minister will find himself on the wrong side of public opinion unless he agrees to abide by the manifesto commitment his party made to keep funding TV licences for the over-75s.

“There is still time for Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson to say that they will keep the promise their Party made to the public”.

The BBC has given some of its stars, such as Dan Walker, salary increases
The BBC has given salary increases to some of its stars such as Dan Walker (Mike Egerton/PA)

Age UK’s online petition has now reached almost 600,000 and the charity says it has been “flooded with calls and emails from people across the country who are worried about losing their free TV licence”.

It said the cost of the entitlement accounts for less than 0.1% of public spending.

The BBC has been criticised for giving pay rises, revealed in its annual report, to some of its stars.

While some big names have taken cuts, Dan Walker, Justin Webb, Nick Robinson, Jason Mohammad, Jo Whiley and Lauren Laverne are among those who have pocketed increases.

The research was conducted via an internet omnibus survey by Kantar for Age UK. A sample of 1,559 GB adults aged 18 plus were interviewed from June 25 to 27.

A Government spokesman said: “We’re very disappointed with this decision – we’ve been clear that we want and expect the BBC to continue this concession.

“People across the country value television as a way to stay connected, and we want the BBC to look at further ways to support older people.

“Taxpayers want to see the BBC using its substantial licence fee income in an appropriate way to ensure it delivers for UK audiences, which includes showing restraint on salaries for senior staff.”

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