Belfast Telegraph

Pensioners hit out at BBC move to make most over-75s pay for licence

Anne Gowdy yesterday
Anne Gowdy yesterday
Thomas Larmour yesterday
A Lisburn pensioner has said she will give up television for good if she is forced to pay for her licence
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A Lisburn pensioner has said she will give up television for good if she is forced to pay for her licence.

Former chartered accountant Anne Gowdy (85) has a small private pension and won't be eligible for a free licence in the future.

The BBC was heavily criticised on Monday when it announced that licence fees for the over-75s would be means-tested, meaning only those entitled to pension credit will be exempt.

She blames the BBC for the decision and said she feels punished for saving her whole life.

Now widowed, her children visit her regularly, but she said the box is her companion in the evenings.

Speaking at the Anna House day centre run by Age NI in Dunmurry, Mrs Gowdy said the BBC had made the wrong choice.

"I'm very bitter about the TV licence change because when you've worked all your life and you reach my age it should be one rule for everybody," she said.

"Because you have a small private pension you have everything else to pay - like rates - so you feel punished for what you've worked for."

Mrs Gowdy said she usually would have the television on from mid-afternoon.

"I've got a family, my daughter works very hard and comes to see me every week. My son is my carer and I see him regularly but he has a family of his own and needs to look after them too.

"I can't expect them to be with me in the evening so the television is my companion.

"If it comes to it I'll give television up altogether.

"I'm really angry about what has happened, they say they'll do something for the over-75s but they won't."

She also said the view that the Government was to blame for cutting funding to the BBC was "nonsense".

She added: "I blame the BBC very much. I've heard once they paid £150,000 to show a match for some second division club.

"That could have been better spent on the licence."

Mrs Gowdy says she has a heart condition and spends about £12 a week on fruit.

"I would have to spend part of that on a television licence," she said.

"I have my money planned out every week and I can't spend any more. I know the licence would only be about £4 a week out of a pension but it's still quite a hefty amount."

Retired engineer Thomas Larmour (76) from Lisburn said television became more important for company after his wife Sarah passed away in 2015.

"I'm fortunate as I've worked all my life.

"I don't drink or smoke either so that's a benefit to me in terms of money," he said.

"To be honest, the pension I get I'm happy enough with.

"I'm not running about begging people and I've always had to pay my way."

Even though he felt in control of his money, Mr Larmour said the means-testing didn't take into account the reality of costs many older people faced.

"When my wife Sarah was alive she had an illness and I brought her out of two homes to care for her myself.

"She was my wife and my responsibility but I didn't get any extra financial help for doing that.

"It was a difficult time but felt I did what was my duty.

"I didn't know who to go to for extra help."

The BBC has defended its decision and claimed it would face "unprecedented closures" across a number of channels, including BBC Two and BBC Four, if it took on the bill itself.

BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said: "Linking a free licence for over-75s to pension credit was the leading reform option.

"It protects the poorest over-75s, while protecting the services that they, and all audiences, love.

"It is the fairest outcome.

"It is one we can implement and endorse.

"This is an outcome that is the fairest in difficult circumstances."

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