No BBC ‘enforcement letters’ - but what happens in 2022?
And over 75s still intimidated by TV licence fee reminders
The National Pensioners’ Convention is to ask the BBC to clarify if its stance on not sending TV licence fee enforcement letters to over 75s will continue into next year.
The NPC welcomes fresh confirmation from BBC Director General Tim Davie that the corporation won’t send ‘enforcement letters’ for non-payment - which could see older people in court - to those who have previously held a free TV licence.
But NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt wants the Director General to explain what happens when the BBC negotiates the new TV licence fee level with the government in 2022?
In a letter to Mr Davie, she will also ask if he accepts that continuing to send frequent reminder letters to over 75s who haven’t paid, makes them feel worried and intimidated.
Jan Shortt said: “The restatement of the BBC’s position by the Director General – which he first told us about last year - is to be welcomed. But it is what happens next year, when the BBC enter negotiations with the government, that is concerning.
“I would like to think that our contact with the BBC and the information we were able to share with them about the hardships faced by many older people who now have to find an extra £157.40 has had something to do with their current stance. But this is only a temporary reprieve. We need to know as soon as possible what people will be faced with in 2022.”
BBC Director General Tim Davie first signalled that he would not pursue enforcement or prosecution against older people at a meeting with the NPC last October. He has now restated the position in a new letter to Lord Ian Botham, who wrote, along with 20 other members of the House of Lords, to ask if the Director General would give an ‘explicit pledge’ that no over 75s will ever be prosecuted for not paying their licence fees. Mr Davie replied that nobody over 75 who was previously in receipt of a free TV licence will be subject to ‘enforcement letters.’
In his email to Lord Botham, Mr Davie wrote: ‘There are no visits taking place in relation to over-75 licences at this time. We have been very clear that we are giving people time to transition which has been extended further because of Covid. We are continuing with that policy.’
Pensioners over 75 had to start paying the TV licence fee last year and only those in receipt of pension credit were exempt. The BBC has now transitioned 3.6million households to paying, with the majority of over 75s households paying in one go. More than 770,000 have applied for free TV licences.
The corporation took on responsibility for funding TV licences for over-75s as part of the charter agreement with the Government in 2015, but has since said it cannot afford to continue. In January, the Government said it was not going ahead with plans to decriminalise non-payment of the fee.
Jan Shortt said: “The NPC is very clear that the government has responsibility and accountability for social welfare. The free TV licence is one element of universal pensioner entitlements in lieu of the most inadequate state pension in the economically developed world. However, the government are not responsive to our argument which in turn shows a desperate lack of understanding of the financial constraints under which older people live. They are dismissing the fact that their actions are responsible for over 75's just above pension credit limit falling into poverty whilst juggling a fixed income to cover increasing bills and living costs and having to pay for a TV licence.”