End free TV licences and bus passes for pensioners, peers say

Pensioner getting on busImage copyright Getty Images

Free TV licences, winter fuel payments and other “outdated” age-related benefits should be scrapped, a group of peers has said, with the money spent on housing and training for young people.

The Committee on Intergenerational Fairness said subsidising licences for over-75s were no longer justified given improvements in pensioners’ incomes.

It also called for free bus passes for the over-65s to be ended.

Campaigners warned against changes, saying pensioner poverty was rising.

The committee said intergenerational fairness was being “exacerbated” by an ageing population, the 2008 global financial crisis and successive government policies that have failed to consider the issue.

It also says the triple lock guarantee for the state pension – which ensures the weekly allowance rises by a minimum of 2.5% every year – should be reconsidered.

According to its report, many pensioner households are now, on average, better off than their working age counterparts, both in terms of income after housing costs and overall household wealth.

“We are calling for some of the outdated benefits based purely on age to be removed,” said Lord True, the Conservative peer who chairs the committee.

He said the universal benefits were “justified when pensioner households were at the bottom of the income scale, but that is no longer the case”.

Young people were getting a raw deal in many areas, the committee said.

It urged action to reduce exploitation in the rental sector, increase affordable housing and expand further education, as well as for an increased focus on vocational support for non-graduates.

The cross-party group of peers said the change was an opportunity for free TV licences to be gradually withdrawn.

The BBC is currently consulting on future options for free TV licences.

The broadcaster will take over responsibility for the entitlement – first introduced in 2000 – from the government in the summer of 2020.

The Centre for Ageing Better warned against “tinkering” with existing benefits, saying pensioner poverty was increasing for the first time in a decade.

“This is not about old versus young,” said its chief executive, Dr Anna Dixon.

“It is about creating a society where everyone, regardless of income or background, can enjoy every stage of life.

“Headline-grabbing proposals like abolishing free TV licences based on age risk distracting from the big structural changes needed across housing, work and communities.”

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