WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

Will pensioners who refuse to pay TV licence be jailed?

13 June, 2019

Former chancellor George Osborne

IT is hard to fathom who has made the biggest blunder over the decision to make the over-75s pay for a TV licence – the government or the BBC?

The fall guy may appear to be the BBC, whose director general, Tony Hall, announced it as if it was of little consequence.

He had enough sense of self-preservation to delay the announcement until after the D-Day celebrations had been held to celebrate the bravery of the very generation he was about to punish.

But the obvious questions seemed to have escaped him: What action will the BBC take against those in their nineties or even older who refuse to pay? Drag them to court? Jail them?

Surely, this would become every politician’s nightmare?

But who is the real guilty party?

It’s the former chancellor George Osborne, and his ­colleagues who ended Whitehall’s licence subsidies for the elderly – a reform introduced by Gordon Brown at the start of the New Labour government.

The government tries to blame the profligacy of the BBC. But the villainy lies elsewhere.

BBC salaries for the stars and director are, admittedly, too high. But this is not a question of budgets, but of politics. Either the government wants to look after its ageing population, or it doesn’t care what happens to them.

Time to scrap Right to Buy

RIGHT to Buy was the cornerstone of the Thatcherite dream of a property-owningsociety where everyone’s home was their castle.

Since 1980, millions of public homes have been sold off, with the majority of those now in the private rented sector. New council homes, despite Camden’s Community Investment Programme, have not been built at anything like the rate they have been sold.

It has been the country’s biggest-ever programme of privatisation and Labour has not firmly stood up against it.

Why is it that, when ­renationalising railways and ­utilities is high on the current opposition’s agenda, scrapping this policy is not?

The sell-off of public assets has done insurmountable damage to the housing market.

Camden, despite its CIP-backed council home building programme, has become an inhospitable place for people on low or uncertain incomes.

Few are able to afford the crippling private rents being charged. Young parents cannot afford to stay in Camden.

The cost of rehousing homeless families in expensive temporary accommodation has forced a move to buy back properties the council has been forced to sell. This is clearly a welcome step, but surely it is time Right to Buy was done away with altogether.

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