Older people’s group Silver Voices lashed out at the controversial Culture Secretary in the latest development in the over-75s’ free licences dispute
Image: Getty Images)
“Cynical” Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has left pensioners “bitterly disappointed” over free TV licences, a campaigner warned tonight.
The “disingenuous” Cabinet Minister, 64, failed to stand up for OAPs when she launched her latest attack on the BBC, according to older people’s group Silver Voices.
While her six-year settlement with the corporation included a two-year freeze in the £159 licence fee, she failed to say how over-75s stripped of free TV licences after the Tories broke a manifesto pledge would be protected from “harassment”, director Dennis Reed claimed.
In a letter to Ms Dorries, seen exclusively by the Mirror, he said: “We are bitterly disappointed that you have left the over-75s in an invidious position.
“When you tweeted the outcome of the negotiations last weekend, you hailed the settlement by saying that ‘the days of the elderly being threatened are over’ (present tense).
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“This was disingenuous, as there are no provisions in the settlement to prevent the over-75s from being harassed, fined, and potentially imprisoned for the next six years.
“As you have agreed a financial settlement with the BBC, I should be grateful if you could now advise me, and millions of older people, how you intend to make good on your promise that the days of the elderly being threatened are over.
“The best way of doing this would surely be to fund the restoration of the free licence scheme for over-75s for as long as the licence system remains in being.”
Mr Reed told the Mirror: “Nadine Dorries was cynical in using the plight of older people, who are struggling to pay the TV licence fee, in announcing her settlement with the BBC.
“We are now calling on the Secretary of State to make good on her promises, by funding a restoration of the free licence scheme to last for as long as the TV licence is in existence, which will be at least six years.”
The Tories have been heavily criticised for betraying over-75s who received free TV licences.
The party pledged at the 2017 election to maintain the benefit for the rest of that Parliament, which was due to run for five years.
But the BBC had already been handed responsibility for funding the concession from summer 2020, under a deal agreed in 2015.
The corporation introduced means-testing after warning that keeping licences free for all over-75s would cost £745million by 2021-22.
Only over-75s who receive pension credit have been eligible for free licences since August 2020. An estimated 3.7 million have to pay.
The Mirror is campaigning to restore free licences for the over-75s.
A DCMS spokesperson said: “The BBC decided to stop funding free licence fees for the over-75s and we were deeply disappointed by the move.
“Later this year we will begin work looking at the best long-term funding model for the corporation.”