Ricky Tomlinson joins battle to save free TV licences for over-75s as time runs out

As we reported from mirror.co.uk ” Ricky Tomlinson warns time is running out in the battle to save free TV licences for the over-75s.

As the BBC’s public consultation on the future of the benefit closes tomorrow, the Royle Family star says: “It’s time to speak up and stand up for older people in our country.”

Labour ’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson joined the call for as many people as possible to respond to the consultation at bbc.com/yoursay.

He said: “There’s not much time left. I urge everyone to fill in the consultation.”

And Jan Shortt of the National Pensioners’ Convention said: “We’ve got 24 hours to save the TV licence, so make sure you’ve responded to the BBC’s consultation. Don’t let them switch us off.”

Ricky, 79, fears many OAPs would struggle to pay the fee, which rises from £150.50 to £154.50 in April, meaning the house-bound and lonely could lose their main link to the outside world.

He said: “A shocking three in 10 of this age group live in poverty or just above the poverty line, and it’s these people who will find it almost impossible to pay for a TV licence.

“They’ll have to find at least an extra £154.50 a year when they’re already struggling to pay for the essentials like heating and food.

“TV means the world to many older people, especially those who are dis-abled or can’t get out and about like they used to.

“It’s the only form of companionship for many who are lonely. Much more needs to be done to protect vulnerable older people.

“I fear cuts to free TV licences will be the start of things to come.”

The Tories vowed at the 2017 election to keep it free for the length of this Parliament, due to run till 2022.

But in 2015 they made a deal giving the BBC responsibility for funding the benefit, costing £745million a year, from June 2020.

Options put forward by the BBC include scrapping the scheme altogether, replacing it with a 50% concession for all over-75s, lifting the threshold for eligibility to 77 or 80, or means-testing so those who get pension credits are able to claim it.

The consultation closes tomorrow, with a decision due in the summer.

Thousands of Mirror readers have joined our campaign with Age UK, urging the Prime Minister to honour her manifesto pledge to keep the free licence.

Add your name to our growing petition by filling in the coupon below.

Some 65,693 have also signed Age UK’s online petition, backed by the Mirror, at ageuk.org.uk/tvpetition.

And on March 7, a demonstration outside the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will pile pressure on the Government.

Age UK and the National Pensioners Convention are calling for the free licences to be taken back into government hands. The NPC said: “It is the responsibility of the government.”

Age UK added: “It is not appropriate for a public sector broadcaster to be responsible for funding what is, in effect, part of our welfare system.”

So what do you think?

Tell us in the comments.

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