Wigan Council chief’s call for TV-licence U-turn

Alison McKenzie-Folan
Alison McKenzie-Folan

Wigan’s local authority boss has written to both the Government and BBC imploring them to perform a U-turn over the scrapping of free television licences for over-75s.

Chief executive Alison McKenzie-Folan sent a letter both to the corporation’s director general Tony Hall and Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport at the full council’s behest.

It impresses how many older people will be affected by the decision, mentions that the town hall itself has faced huge funding cuts and recognises the fact that the BBC has had the final say on the scheme but also that the Government relinquished its subsidising of it.

The Wigan Observer and its sister papers across JPI Media itself launched a campaign in June to persuade the BBC to think again.

In her two letters Ms McKenzie-Folan wrote: “Wigan borough has a population of more than 320,000 people.

“We estimate there are more than 20,000 over-75s in Wigan borough who do not receive Pension Credit and will therefore not be eligible for a free TV licence from June next year when the current scheme ends.

“At the council meeting our Leader and elected councillors expressed how this decision is likely to have a detrimental impact on these 20,000 people.

“They feel our most elderly citizens, who have contributed significantly to both the borough and this country, deserve our support and consideration.

“Our councillors agreed that to rid them of free access to the BBC would be a retrograde step and could force many of our elderly residents to be either poorer financially or more isolated and less connected to the outside world.

“The council’s members expressed concern that the Government was not doing enough to support the BBC in terms of funding the scheme for over-75s. Having dealt with the effects of austerity for the past 10 years at Wigan Council, where we have reduced budgets by more than £140m over the past nine years, we understand the difficult decisions that have to be made when budgets are squeezed.”

She asks Mr Hall to reconsider and Ms Morgan to intervene.