Bailiffs could be sent to homes of pensioners who refuse to pay their TV licence


Bailiffs could be sent to the homes of pensioners who refuse to pay their TV licence if plans to decriminalise fee evasion go ahead.

The Government is looking at whether failure to pay the £157.50 licence should remain a criminal offence, sparking concern from critics that the model for funding the broadcaster could be under threat.

People who fail to pay the licence fee can be fined up to £1000 or even face imprisonment under the current rules.

However this is extremely rare, with only five people going to prison for failing to pay in 2018.

If non-payment of the annual charge is replaced with a civil penalty, then private bailiffs could be brought in to collect fines.

Pensioners have protested about the reimposition of the TV licence fee on the over 75s

And vulnerable elderly people would face the prospect of debt collectors turning up at their homes after the free TV licence for the over-75s was axed at the beginning of August.

The Mirror has been campaigning against the removal of the lifeline benefit from all but the poorest pensioners.

Millions of over-75s have already started receiving letters telling them to pay their licence fee, unless they are entitled to Pension Credit.

Rebel pensioners are mounting a campaign to “gum up” the payment system by cancelling their direct debits and only paying by cheque.

The BBC said that “an enforcement system” would be necessary if paying the licence fee is decriminalised.

But campaigners warned that the prospect of bailiffs enforcing payment of the licence fee would be “distressing and frightening” to elderly people.

READ  Labour MP Louise Ellman quits party with parting shot at Jeremy Corbyn

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “We are aware that any decriminalisation of the TV licence enforcement process would in all likelihood lead to greater use of bailiffs to reclaim the money due and that’s one of the reasons why we are wary of any such policy shift.

“After all, it is hard to think of anything more distressing and frightening for an older person than to have a bailiff turn up at their front door, demanding entry.

“TV Licensing has been clear that they will avoid such an insensitive approach, but even the thought of it will be putting shudders down some older people’s backs.”

She restated the charity’s warning that the plan would turn out to be a “slow motion car crash” and urged the BBC and the Government to rethink.

The free licence fee for the over-75s became a source of tension between the Government and the BBC, after ministers handed over responsibility for funding it to the cash-strapped broadcaster.

TV Licence rules and discounts

A BBC spokesperson said: “Decriminalising the licence fee could cost the BBC up to £1 billion over five years and have a big impact on programmes and services.

“The vast majority of people pay the licence fee voluntarily, but as a universal service we need an enforcement system with appropriate sanctions otherwise it is unfair to those who do pay.

“A detailed Government-commissioned review has already found the current system is the fairest and most effective.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been contacted for comment.

READ  The Observer view on the coronavirus crisis: stay at home this Easter | Observer editorial





READ SOURCE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here