There was very little substance to the 2017 Tory manifesto. However, one thing it did say was that the Tories would maintain pensioner benefits: including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences.
It was therefore very disappointing to see that they have this week announced that they are reneging on their 2017 commitment by stripping over 75s of their free TV licence.
Labour has always made supporting the elderly and tackling pensioner poverty a priority. We therefore were very proud to introduce free TV licences for over 75s back in 2001.
Thousands of households across Alyn and Deeside are set to miss out. That’s elderly people who are already struggling to get by, being pushed further into poverty.
It’s appalling that the Tory Government had the gall to try and pass responsibility onto the BBC for funding free TV licences. The Government knows full well that the BBC will not be able to maintain the benefit without financial support.
Elderly people who voted Tory in 2017, believing pensioner support will be protected, quite rightly should feel let down.
The Tories have stated that they will keep the benefit for those on Pension Credit but I firmly believe that this benefit should not be means tested. Besides, it is estimated that 1.3 million poorer over-75s are eligible for Pension Credit but do not claim the benefit.
It is also estimated that over 1.6 million pensioners living alone will lose their free licence in a means tested system. These are quite often people who regard the television as their best form of company and could become completely isolated if they cannot afford to keep their TV.
This announcement came at the same time as the leading candidate in the Tory leadership campaign announced that he would slash income tax for the richest in society. Instead of outlining how they are going to address the devastating inequality in society, the leadership contest has become a race to the bottom with a frantic series of pledges to cut taxes for the rich.
On the 8th of May Labour passed unopposed an opposition day motion that stated that any changes to the existing TV licence concession must be subject to Parliamentary consent. My colleagues and I will push to have that motion upheld.