Rebel pensioners launch fightback over plans to strip them of free TV licences

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Rebel pensioners are this week launching a campaign to “gum up” the TV licences payment system in protest at plans to strip them of free licences.

Thousands of outraged OAPs plan to disrupt the system once changes come in from Saturday.

The curb will see an estimated 3.7 million over-75s have to pay £157.50-a-year to watch their favourite programmes.

But the Silver Voices older people’s group is waging a revolt which could see a host of legal measures aimed at making it more difficult for officials to operate the licensing system.

These could include stopping direct debit payments, “forgetting” to date or sign cheques and making out cheques for amounts slightly higher or lower than the precise fee.

OAPs could even write cheques in other languages, including Cornish or Gaelic, to slow down the process.

It is aimed at making the cost of administering and enforcing the licence fee “much more expensive than keeping the free licence for a relatively small group”.

Dennis Reed, Director of Silver Voices told the Mirror: “We are being forced to take these actions as neither the Government nor the BBC are listening to us.

“If we allow this important benefit for older people to slip away without a fight, other insurances against pensioner poverty such as the winter fuel allowance, free prescriptions and the triple lock on state pensions will be next in line for the chop.

“The Mirror has conducted a fantastic campaign in support of free licences and this has given us confidence to continue the fight to reinstate the benefit.”

The Conservatives pledged at the 2017 election to protect free licences for the rest of that Parliament, which was due to run until 2022.

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

It says keeping licences free for all over-75s would cost £745million by 2021-22.

The corporation is introducing restrictions, meaning only over-75s who receive Pension Credit will be eligible.

Curbs were due on June 1 but were delayed by two months because of the coronavirus pandemic. Most over-75s will start being charged from August 1.

The Mirror has campaigned to save the benefit, with more than 18,000 readers backing the fight by completing coupons in the paper.

BBC chairman Sir David Clementi, announcing the August 1 start date earlier this month, said: “The BBC could not continue delaying the scheme without impacting on programmes and services.

“Around 1.5 million households could get free TV licences if someone is over-75 and receives Pension Credit, and 450,000 of them have already applied.

“And critically it is not the BBC making that judgment about poverty. It is the Government who sets and controls that measure.”

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