Gazette column - 31/1/19

SLAPPING a £150.50 TV tax on elderly viewers is what the sneaky Tories are plotting by breaking an election promise to keep Labour’s free licences for our over-75s.

In my Jarrow parliamentary constituency alone the Conservatives would financially clobber 5,900 homes with senior citizens.  In South Shields, another 5,970 would be hit.  That’s close on 12,000 households in just our bit of the country with the Tories pulling the plug nationally on as many as 4.4 million folk.

And we mustn’t let the cowardly Tories get away with blaming the BBC when the Conservatives are turning the broadcaster into a branch office of the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Tories will be responsible if you or a relative is forced to find £150.50 out of a meagre pension with the threat of a court appearance and criminal record for non-payment adding potential injury to endured injury.

However much the Con-servatives wriggle, this is their nasty little spiteful attack on people whose only friend and comfort is often Coronation Street, Emmerdale or EastEnders.

Free TV licences are important in the battles against loneliness and social isolation.

Four in every 10 older people say the telly’s their main source of company and charity Age UK found almost a million didn’t see or hear from anyone else over Christmas.

Suddenly charging them £150.50, warned Age UK, would dump them into poverty and create invidious choices such as whether to eat, turn on the heating or watch the television.

Let the Tories go after the Fat Cats if they want to raise money instead of targeting pensioners.

Treating the super-rich with kid gloves then dipping their hands in the purses and wallets of the elderly is the stinking politics of persecution.

I’m proud that free TV licences for over-75s were introduced by the Labour Government in 2000 and will fight to save them.

I’ll hold to account Theresa May’s brigands when the Conservatives promised in the party’s 2017 election manifesto that they wouldn’t touch pensioner benefits such as these TV licences.

We’re used to Conservatives saying one thing and doing another but this broken pledge is breathtaking.

Hiding behind the BBC, pretending the BBC is at fault, is Tory spinelessness when the Tories recently foisted the £750m cost on the BBC in the first place.

My answer is to go back to how licences were provided under Labour with the Treasury picking up the tab for what is an important, much needed and enjoyed benefit the elderly earned with a lifetime of graft.

The BBC’s consulting until 12 February 2019 but I won’t accept any changes and my target is the Tory organ grinder, not the BBC monkey.

Once again we’re fighting a Tory Party making life harder for the many, privileged Conservatives not caring about the grotesque unfairness of launching a £150.50 a year raid on the over-75s.

Let’s pull the plug on Theresa May, not free TV licences.

Meet your MP


Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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