By Andrew Atkinson
Ex-pats aged over 75 – who split their time between the UK and Spain – have been handed a cash-boost reprieve, after the BBC made a u-turn on charging for tv licences.
Sir David Clementi, BBC chairman, said: “We are in exceptional circumstances. This is not the right time.”
Millions of pensioners have received letters, saying they must pay the £157.50 fee from June – now on hold due to the coronavirus.
In a u-turn the BBC has halted plans to charge over-75s for the licence fee, postponing the scheme for an initial two months period.
Many hard-up pensioners faced not having a tv – after the £157.50 free licence fee was set to be scrapped from June.
The BBC announced in a joint statement with the Government that free licences will continue – until August – when the situation will be reviewed.
It is deemed crucial that pensioners can continue to access coronavirus updates – via BBC News reports.
Non-payment of the BBC licence fee, which can lead to a Court appearance, brought additional worries to over-75s, in the midst of the coronavirus health crisis.
The u-turn will cost the BBC an additional £85 million.
A BBC statement said: “The BBC and the Government have been discussing the national coronavirus situation.
“Changes to the TV licence for people aged over 75 had been due to come into effect on 1 June. But during this time we do not want anyone to be worried about any potential change.
“The BBC’s priority over the coming period will be to do everything we can to serve the nation at this uniquely challenging time.
“As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a vital role to play in supplying information to the public in the weeks and months ahead.
“Recognising the exceptional circumstances, the BBC Board has therefore decided to change the start date of the new policy.
“Our current plan is to now bring it into place on 1 August . We will of course keep the issue under review as the situation continues to evolve.”
Sir David Clementi, said: “The BBC board has decided to delay changes to over-75s licence fees. We are in exceptional circumstances. Now is not the right time. We are fully focussed on delivering our services to the public at this difficult time.”
Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, said: “I am pleased the BBC has worked with us and agreed to delay their licence fee changes for over 75s from coming in and will keep this under review.”
Keith Ashton, 77, who splits his time in Los Montesinos, Alicante, and Morecambe, Lancashire, told The Leader: “The BBC announcing the free tv licence withdrawal was a big upset to many.
“Following a meeting with the Government and the BBC it is very good news for the pensioners, aged 75 and over affected, that a reprieve to put the withdrawal of the free licence on hold.”