Cummings’ exit paves way for deal on over-75s’ free TV licences, says campaigner
Millions of pensioners have been stripped of free TV licences
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Dominic Cummings' Downing Street exit paves the way for a deal with the BBC to end the row about free TV licences for over-75s, a campaigner claimed tonight
The Prime Minister's former chief adviser was seen as an arch critic of the corporation before he dramatically quit No10 last week.
But pensioners fighting to restore free TV licences for millions of OAPs stripped of the lifeline hoped his departure would herald a switch in relations between the Government and the Beeb.
Silver Voices director Dennis Reed said: “A conjunction of events presents a real opportunity for the Government and the BBC to discuss a way to restore free licences for the over-75s.
Silver Voices director Dennis Reed
Mr Cummings left No10 last week
“The departure of anti-BBC forces from 10 Downing Street and a policy vacuum at the heart of Government on the future of the licence system should mean a review of this controversial policy.”
He called on the BBC to maintain its “policy of non-enforcement of the licence fee for over-75s indefinitely, pending urgent talks with the Government on funding a restoration of free licences”.
He added: “Such action would be a great early Christmas present for hard-pressed, older people.”
Labour peer Lord George Foulkes, who chairs Parliament's cross-party group on ageing and older people, said: “Cummings' departure gives the BBC and the Government a golden opportunity to save face and honour their promises.
Lord George Foulkes chairs Parliament's cross-party group on ageing and older people
“They should get together urgently now to find a way to ensure poor older people who depend on their TV for both vital information and entertainment can continue to get free licences.”
Labour introduced free TV licences for over-75s in 2000.
But instead of celebrating the 20th anniversary of the concession, millions of pensioners were stripped of the lifeline this summer after the Conservatives ditched a promise to protect the benefit.
The party pledged at the 2017 election to maintain over-75s' free licences 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 June 2020, under a deal agreed in 2015.
It said keeping licences free for all over-75s would cost £745million by 2021-22.
Only over-75s who receive Pension Credit are eligible – meaning an estimated 3.7 million will have to pay.
BBC director-general Tim Davie
(Image: Getty Images)
A BBC spokesman said: “The decision to remove free TV licences for the over-75s was taken by the Government, not the BBC.
“A properly-funded BBC will continue to support and provide companionship to pensioners, but we must and will do the same for licence holders of all ages across the UK.
“We have not visited any households who previously held a free over-75s' licence since the new measures began in the summer – and to suggest we are only stopping now is wrong.”
The Government has previously criticised the BBC for means-testing.
The Mirror has fought to save free TV licences, with more than 18,000 readers backing the fight by completing coupons in the paper.