Thousands of North Herts pensioner households to lose entitlement to free TV licences
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Thousands of pensioner households in North Hertfordshire will lose their automatic entitlement to free TV licences.
The BBC has announced that free licences for over-75s will be means tested from June 2020, in a controversial move which has drawn criticism from campaigners.
Office for National Statistics data estimates that in 2016 there were 8,228 households in North Herts with at least one resident aged 75 or older.
Households without anyone who receives Pension Credit will have to pay for a TV licence under the new policy.
It is thought that around 3.7 million households across the UK will now have to pay the fee, with around 1.5 million eligible for a free licence under the new scheme.
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BBC director-general Tony Hall said that the move was "not an easy decision", but argued that the policy was fair.
He said: "While we know that pensioner incomes have improved since 2000, we also know that for some the TV licence is a lot of money.
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"It would not be right simply to abolish all free licences. Equally, it would not be right to maintain it in perpetuity given the very profound impact that would have on many BBC services.
The corporation was due to take over the cost of free TV licences as part of its new charter agreement which commenced in 2017.
The shift from government to the broadcaster was being phased in, with sole responsibility set to begin from 2020, when it was estimated to be due to cost the BBC around £725 million.
Pensioners had protested at the possibility of the concession being scrapped, and concerns were raised by some MPs over removing the free licence.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: "Make no mistake, if this scheme goes ahead we are going to see sick and disabled people in their eighties and nineties who are completely dependent on their cherished TV for companionship and news, forced to give it up.
"Means-testing may sound fair, but in reality it means at least 650,000 of our poorest pensioners facing a big new annual bill they simply can't afford, because, though eligible for Pension Credit, they don't actually get it.
"The BBC's decision will cause those affected enormous anxiety and distress, and some anger too, but in the end this is the Government's fault, not the BBC's."