Scrap 'outdated' free TV licences for over-75s, peers say

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Free TV licences for over-75s and other “outdated” age-related benefits should be scrapped, a group of peers has said, with money spent instead on housing and training for young people.

The Committee on Intergenerational Fairness said subsidised licences were no longer justified given improvements in the incomes of many pensioners.

It called for increased focus on vocational support for non-graduates.

The BBC is currently consulting on future options for free licences.

The broadcaster will take over responsibility for the entitlement – first introduced in 2000 – from the government in the summer of 2020.

The cross-party group of peers said the change was an opportunity for free licences to be gradually withdrawn.

Its report argues that many pensioner households are now, on average, better off than their working age counterparts, both in terms of income after housing costs and overall household wealth.

It is calling for other universal pensioner benefits, such as the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes for the over-65s, to be cut and for the triple lock guarantee for the state pension – which ensures the weekly allowance rises by a minimum of 2.5% every year – to be reconsidered.

“We are calling for some of the outdated benefits based purely on age to be removed,” said Lord True, the Conservative peer who chairs the committee.

“Policies such as the state pension triple lock and free TV licences for the over-75s were justified when pensioner households were at the bottom of the income scale, but that is no longer the case.”

Young people are getting a raw deal in many areas, the committee said.

It urged action to reduce exploitation in the rental sector, increase affordable housing and expand further education.

But the Centre for Ageing Better warned against “tinkering” with existing benefits when pensioner poverty was increasing for the first time in a decade.

“This is not about old versus young,” said its chief executive, Dr Anna Dixon.

“It is about creating a society where everyone, regardless of income or background, can enjoy every stage of life.

“Headline-grabbing proposals like abolishing free TV licences based on age risk distracting from the big structural changes needed across housing, work and communities.”

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