This is a great storey of how good can come out of a bad idea. It is also a storey of cowardly policy, disregard of older people’s views, unintended consequences and happily a potentially a very good end result 😀
Gorden Brown introduced Free TV License’s for the over 75’s as a way of currying favour with the elderly electorate in 2003. It is a universal benefit that every older pensioner gets, even though many are wealthy enough to pay for it.
In these more austere times Governments have been trying to figure out how to claw it back, but no politician wants to upset elderly voters. Then some clever clogs in the Treasury in 2017, came up with the idea of passing the responsibility to the BBC and saving itself £745 million by 2020. Job done! All very quietly and nobody much noticed. I will bet somebody got a bonus for that idea.
When the fat cats at the Beeb finally noticed there was going to be a big dent in their income, they needed a get out plan. The fist step was to launch a fictitious “consultation”. The preamble to the “consultation” was loaded with the dire consequences for the BBC if they didn’t get the answer they wanted. But, since everybody knows that they are under-paid, under-staffed, overworked and BRILLIANT BROADCASTERS, they had high expectations of full agreement to their proposals. (I wrote about the “consultation” in October last year)
Sadly it didn’t turn out that way, Thousands of pensioners predictably protested. On Twitter, on Facebook, in the press, on TV and even outside the front doors of Television Centre. Who would have guessed????
The Beeb’s eventual compromise is to continue to offer free licences to the poorest pensioners, although this will require a means test to ensure they qualify for Pension Credit. It is currently a very under-claimed Benefit, 40% of over75’s who are entitled, don’t claim it. The average increase would be £65/week or a whopping £1.6 billion !
Now the Government is also spooked and trying to blame it all on the BBC. MP’s everywhere are claiming it is all very unforeseen and not at all what they expected.
So, we get to the happy unintended consequence of all this cowardly shenanigans. The BBC will have to raise the profile of Pension Credit in order to be seen to be helping hard up pensioners. Already since this discussion started, 1700 more pensioners are claiming Pension Credit. If all those who are entitled to it now claim it, it will cost the Government twice as much as they saved. What’s more, Pension Credit is a passport to other benefits, so the cost will be even higher.
In the longer term the Government may get its own back by cutting the BBC licence fee, but that’s for another day.