TV No Longer Free ? Part Two

This follows on from my last post about the BBC reviewing the free TV licenses currently given to all over 75’s.

The Beeb is launching a consultation, which means they would like to scrap free licences, but they don’t know if they can get away with it. So here are a few options they might like to consider :-

  • Boldly bite the bullet and scrap it altogether —- people will be upset for a while, the Government will say it is shameful, but the stars obviously do need more money to pay for that change of clothes each day and their lavish lifestyles.
  • Ask old people to voluntarily pay the license fee —- this has already been suggested as an idea, but I can’t see too many older people falling for it.
  • Means test the entitlement ——- another bright idea, but it will cost a lot to administer unless they get more of those detector vans with the rotating aerials.  Maybe they could disguise them as ice-cream vans.
  • Some bright spark has already thought of raising the age of eligibility.  Currently it’s 75, why not make it 105.  There won’t be too many people claiming free licences then!

Here are some alternative suggestions for cutting the budget :-

  • Sack all the staff with ‘assistant’ in their job title.
  • Shut down the 24-hour news channel and just have 1 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 10 o’clock news.
  • What’s BBC3 ? Does anybody watch it ?  Would they notice if you closed it down?
  • You might as well say the same for BBC4.
  • There has been lots of concern about older presenters getting fired, so adopt a new policy of employing more over 75’s in future.
  • Come to that why not give all the jobs to over 75’s ?  I will bet they could be camera men and interviewers and editors and costume designers and everything else.   Then with their higher salaries I am sure they would not mind paying the TV license.

There’s just one problem, which the BBC may have overlooked in considering removing free TV licences.   Older people watch much more television than younger people.   In particular they watch the BBC much more than other viewers.  Younger viewers have already migrated to YouTube, Netflix and Spotify, if they watch TV at all.

Over 55’s account for 63% of all BBC 1 viewers, even though they only make up 31% of the UK population.   News at one has 82% of its viewers over 55.   Brassing all these older people off by charging for the licence fee could well result in the BBC having far less viewers and losing their place in the audience ratings.  In turn this could mean the Government decides to reconsider the massive grant it already gives to the BBC.

This ought to make the BBC think twice before removing the free TV licences for older people.  

Posted in ELDERLY UK POLICY | 2 Comments

TV No Longer Free ?

A few years ago the Government quietly passed responsibility for “free TV licenses for over 75’s” over to the BBC.    It was announced in the Chancellor’s budget statement, but attracted little comment.  The Government used to foot the bill of over £750m annually for free TV licences for the elderly.  But the BBC now has to start “sharing the cost” and from 2020 take it over in full.   Having thought about this for a while, the BBC has woken up to this impending catastrophe.  Now it seems the chickens are coming home to roost.

The BBC is feeling the pinch.  Its stars are demanding more money.  Hundreds of thousands of pounds are just not enough for reading the news or hosting quiz shows.   Nor are they anywhere near the going rate for chatting about football or swanning about on Strictly on a Saturday night.

Then there are all the behind-the-camera staff toiling away as producers, assistant producers, editors, assistant editors, sub-editors and assistant sub-editors.  And don’t forget sound technicians, lighting technicians, stage managers, and writers and costume designers and set designers and prop purchasers and wardrobe mistresses, and transport managers and logistics aides and outside broadcasters and inside broadcasters.  They obviously need more money for the excellent work they do on our behalf.

The BBC are desparately seeking to pay for all these hard working people.   So now they are looking at the budget for the years ahead and that promised free TV license is in their sights.   Who knows what the next news headlines will be?

It looks like it is Gary Lineker, Claudia Winkleman, Holly Willoughby et al verses the over 75 year olds.


Posted in ELDERLY UK POLICY | 2 Comments

Social Prescribing

We have got a new Health Secretary, Matthew Hancock and he is full of new ideas.   Well they are old ideas really.    SOCIAL PRESCRIBING, remember these two new buzzwords, they are about to revolutionise care of older people in the NHS.   That’s if you believe Matthew Hancock 🙂

Go to see your GP from now on and you won’t get a pill for all ills.   Instead you will be told to go to the cinema and watch the latest blockbuster movie ——- something like Fantastic Beasts 2 or Aqua Man or Oceans 8 —– just the sort of thing that would appeal to older people.    Or your GP might suggest you go for a walk, a very long walk, never mind your poorly feet.   Oh and don’t come back, to the surgery that is.    Or perhaps bingo is your thing, we all know old people like bingo and now your GP might even prescribe it for you.  Or if you can find one, go for a day out on a bus with your free bus pass, which you can now get with your free prescription.   It looks like cinemas, bingo halls and buses will be jammed full of older people before long, all clutching their free prescriptions.

Longer term, maybe just before the next election, Mr Hancock is working on another idea to reduce costs in the NHS and solve the country’s immigration problem, all in one new swoop.   “Happy holidays” on prescription.   Free flights to anywhere in Europe, then you can claim welfare benefits in the country you are staying in.  Oh and you will need a visa to get back into the UK.    There is a 58 page application form online at

You can already tell that Matthew Hancock is brimming with great new ideas for older people.  He must have spent time in the Last Laugh Looney Party 🙂

Posted in HEALTH | Tagged | 4 Comments

Sugar Confusion ?

Don’t go to Chicago if you have got a sweet tooth.  The American Alzheimer’s Association has just declared that consuming two and a half teaspoons of added sugar a day raises the risk of you developing Dementia by 54% !

If you are someone that follows the adage that “ a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”, you may be building up a bigger problem  for yourself.   So I should forget that idea.   There again, if you have already forgotten it, then perhaps it is too late for you.

Confused or what?  Take a pill or get more ill.   You decide.

I’ve been regularly writing about pills since I started this blog, and as long ago as 2011, I wrote a blog called “Sugaring the Pill”.  It seems that not a lot as changed.  (You can find all these posts by clicking on “Pills” in the TAG CLOUD).


Posted in Dementia, HEALTH | Tagged | 4 Comments

Move to the Country – 4

Every year Prudential publishes its Retirement Quality of Life Index for England and Wales.   It is eagerly awaited by thousands of older people because it tells you the best place to live if you want a happy, healthy life.

There is a bit of a problem, however, they keep changing their advice.    In May 2010 Prudential advocated Dorset, but two years later, Somerset was top of their list.     Later in 2017,  Berkshire became the best place to go.     Now, West Sussex heads up the index.  (See other posts on this subject by clicking on “Demographics” in the TAG CLOUD).

This is a blinking nuisance unless you have a mobile home.  What’s more, all that moving every few years can get a bit stressful.  It also costs a fortune in removal fees and all that lifting can’t do your back any good.  Especially with all the clutter we have to move from house to house.

I have a better solution.  The GrumbleSmiles Mass Migration would involve everyone over 65 living in the South of England moving to the North of England !    I know the climate may be a bit cooler and wetter, but the lower property values would allow people to release substantial equity with which to live the high life.


Posted in SMILES | Tagged | 5 Comments

Equity Release Pressure Sales Techniques

This is a follow-up to my post “Equity Release Revisisted” which prompted me to look into the subject again and start a new series of blogs on the subject.  I first wrote about this in 2012 and then again in 2015.  (You can find my earlier posts by clicking on Equity Release in the TAG CLOUD).

If Equity Release is such a good thing, why are Equity Release sales people so shy about giving out information ?   They all portray an image of being open and honest and above-board, but, they won’t give you any hard facts.

Normally when shops display their goods they put the prices on them, it is only exclusive jewellery shops and fashion retailers that don’t have prices in the window and then you know they are going to be very expensive.

Perhaps that the point.  Equity Release sales people know their products are expensive so they won’t tell you the price until you are subjected to the hard-sell interview first.   You cannot get past the TV commercial or newspaper advert without signing up to an interview / interrogation   / intimidation  or as they would say ‘consultation’.

Here are a few examples of these suspect approaches :-

  • AGE PARTNERSHIP.   Claim to be the biggest provider of Equity Release with a logo that has a remarkable resemblance to AGE UK.   Though as far as I know they are not connected at all.   They have a staff team of 500, whose youthful looks don’t leave you thinking they have too many years of experience in life, nor in financial services.   They are the firm who advertise on TV.   But, also are economical about the size of their application fees.
  • DREWBERRY.  They have the usual blurb about the virtues of Equity Release and a ‘free Equity Release calculator’.   But, when you start to put in basic information — age, date of birth etc. —- it asks for a phone number, so that they can contact you and follow-up with the hard sell.   No phone number means you get no information about what loan you could receive !
  • ONE FAMILY.   But, a curious name for an Equity Release company, until you realise they are playing on the idea that the whole family can benefit from the early liberation of your wealth.   And before you know where you are you may have nothing left.    And of course the loan company will have most of it.  And the local agents will have their commission.
  • MORE 2 LIFE.   Same old spiel, although when I downloaded a brochure, it did have a few examples which told you a bit more.   So if you borrow £85,000, after 15 years you will owe £194,000 !    It also has a ‘free calculator’, but, again you have to give them your phone number before they will give you an answer !
  • PURE RETIREMENT.   Sounds good, who wouldn’t want a loan from them, especially when they claim to offer honest, simple solutions? But, when you download their brochure it is no more simple and honest as all the others, full of if’s and maybe’s. They may pay your fees, there again they may not.   Their ‘application and valuation fees are transparent from the start’, but, they won’t tell you how much they are.  That doesn’t sound very transparent to me.

I could go on with many more examples, but, it gets boring after a while trying to find some simple facts about Equity Release.    I guess that is what they all count on.

After hours of research on the internet, over a period of several weeks, I am still not much further on in trying to get some basic facts and figures about the cost of Equity Release.   I’ve ended up with a lot more questions than answers so I’ve got to keep digging.  

Posted in ELDERLY MARKET | Tagged | 3 Comments

Equity Release Alarm Bells !

This is a follow-up to my post “Equity Release Revisisted” which prompted me to look into the subject again and start a new series of blogs on the subject.  I first wrote about this in 2012 and then again in 2015.  (You can find my earlier posts by clicking on Equity Release in the TAG CLOUD).

My research about Equity Release continues and today I stumbled upon a Report commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute, that you would be most unlikely to find, unless it was raining and you had nothing better to do.

It is obliquely called “Asleep at the Wheel: The Prudential Regulation Authority and The Equity Release Sector “.      Sounds like riveting stuff 😀.       Written by Professor Kevin Dowd of Durham University.  It is not exactly bedtime reading, unless you want to go to sleep.

But, it has some interesting facts about Equity Release which I’ve repeated below :-

  • The UK’s Equity Release market nearly trebled in size between 2012 and 2017 and is forecast to grow a further 40% by 2020.
  • Prudential Regulation Authority stress tests in 2017 indicated that a 30% house price fall could lead to losses of between £2 billion and £3 billion.
  • Firms are greatly under-valuing their No Negative Equity Guarantees – guarantees that ensure that borrowers’ debt can never exceed the value of the mortgaged property.
  • We never seem to learn. Equitable Life hit the rocks two decades ago because it under-valued its long-term guarantees. Now the Equity Release sector is in deep trouble for the same reason.  In both cases, the firms involved got into difficulties because they were using voodoo valuation methods that had no scientific validation.  Same causes, same results.

The report was published in August and received quite a lot of attention in the financial press.  But, it did not appear on the national news, nor is it likely to have been seen by the majority of older people.  There has been quite a muted response from the Equity Release providers, who have very much played down the report.

The immediate impact of the report does not affect older people who have taken out Equity Release loans, since they already have their money.   The bigger impact could be to the industry as a whole because if this report is correct, they are seriously under-capitalised.

If this report is anywhere near correct, then the Equity Release market could collapse altogether.

Is this the first warning signs of an Equity Release sector in trouble?  It’s probably going to take someone with more time and skill than I have to get to the bottom of this.  

BUT I’ll keep trying.

Posted in ELDERLY MARKET, Grey Products | Tagged | 3 Comments