TV bill hikes set to hit 4.5million Brits after Tories abandon licence promise

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Pensioners face a £710million bill to watch television after the Tories’ licence fee betrayal.

Analysis by Labour revealed the cost to households of the Conservatives’ broken promise to protect free licences for over-75s.

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It said more than 5.3million homes had at least one OAP aged 75 or over, who would have been entitled to a free licence if election vows had been kept.

But fewer than 890,000 households have someone receiving Pension Credit – leaving nearly 4.5 million having to fork out £159 for a licence.

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In total, they will pay more than £710m as they battle soaring inflation, council tax hikes and the energy price bombshell.

TV bill hikes set to hit 4.5million Brits after Tories abandon licence promise

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Counting coins is a harsh reality for millions more from the start of this month as the cost of living crisis begins to bite ( Image: Getty Images)

Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell said: “The Tory cost-of-living crisis is hitting pensioners.

“On top of rising energy bills and food prices, many will not be able to afford to keep the TV on – risking isolation and loneliness in old age.”

Labour introduced free TV licences for over-75s in 2000.

The Tories pledged at the 2017 election to maintain the lifeline for the rest of that Parliament, which was due to run for five years.

But the BBC had already been handed responsibility for funding the concession from summer 2020, under a deal agreed in 2015.

The corporation introduced means-testing after warning that keeping licences free for all over-75s would cost £745million by 2021-22.

TV bill hikes set to hit 4.5million Brits after Tories abandon licence promise

Some BBC journalists have argued in favour of the licence, pointing to all the programmes it allows the company to provide ( Image: Getty Images)

Under the means-testing system introduced by the BBC, only over-75s who receive Pension Credit have been eligible for free licences since August 2020.

Older people’s groups called for the lifeline to be restored as living standards take a battering.

Silver Voices director Dennis Reed said: “The Tory broken promise on free TV licences is heaping worry upon worry for older people as we try to negotiate the cost-of-living storm.

“Thousands are giving up their main connection to the world outside because they can’t afford to pay the £159 fee, or flirting with fines by putting off payment.

“When you can’t afford to heat and eat properly, the box has to go.”

TV bill hikes set to hit 4.5million Brits after Tories abandon licence promise

The TV licence was introduced in 1946 but as the way we watch has evolved many have called for it to be scrapped altogether ( Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Labour peer Lord George Foulkes, who chairs Westmister’s cross-party group on ageing and older people, said: “Among the many cuts they face this is the cruellest of all.

“It will cut off poor pensioners from information and entertainment at a time when they will need it more than ever.

“Ministers should hang their heads in shame having broken solemn promises.”

The Mirror fought to save free TV licences, with more than 18,000 readers backing the fight by completing coupons in the paper.

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