Ahead of this week’s budget, the government announced that the BBC will have to pick up the £650 million cost of over 75s' free TV licences. This is more than the £522 million it costs to run BBC Two, and almost a fifth of the BBC’s total budget.
The BBC will now effectively be footing the bill for a government policy designed to bribe the grey vote. It is no different from asking Tesco to pay for the over 75s to get free meals, or Curry’s being forced to give pensioners free fridges. To make matters worse, after 2020 the BBC will then be free to means test the free TV licences, meaning the BBC will take the flak when they have to admit it is not affordable.
With pensions now triple-locked (because a double-lock wasn’t enough) to rise above the rate of inflation, it seems the perfect time to make pensioners pay for a TV license like the rest of the country.
But this is only one example of how pensioners have been almost completely unaffected by austerity. With another round of cuts to come, including £9 billion from the welfare budget, it’s hard to justify why pensioners, particularly well off pensioners, should remain exempt from budget cuts.
In 2012, quite rightly, rich couples were told they would no longer be entitled to receive child benefit payments. Yet if you’re a rich pensioner you will continue to receive a ‘winter fuel allowance’ worth between £100-£300. It’s easy to see why poorer elderly people living on just the state pension receive this payment, but in the current climate of austerity it is not justifiable to hand out public money to the well off, much like it wasn’t for child benefit.
The UK is effectively now a gerontocracy, with both Labour and the Conservatives clamouring to offer the over 65s more and more money, and yet another freebie. Yet it is hardly surprising when you consider in the 2015 general election turnout for the over 65s was at 78%, compared to a average turnout of 66% (and only 43% for those aged 18-24). Perhaps if other age groups bothered to vote in elections they too would get a fairer deal from the government.