Over 75s will get free TV licences

Free TV licences for over-75s are being reintroduced

Free TV licences for over-75s are being reintroduced

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Free TV licences for the over-75s are being reinstated with immediate effect, following a Tynwald vote today.

New Treasury Minister Alfred Cannan announced that details of a rebate scheme will be brought to Tynwald in November.

Anyone over the age of 75 who has paid £145.50 for a licence since September 1 will be refunded.

The court heard that similar funding arrangements for the Isle of Man to those in the UK should be in place for 2020 - but interim arrangements were still subject to negotiation.

There has been outcry at the move to scrap free TV licences for the over-75 from September 1, a measure that was approved as part of this year’s Manx budget.

Veterans groups pointed out it was unfair that Manx pensions had to pay while in the UK, the Westminster government has agreed to part fund the licence until the BBC covers the full cost from 2020.

Douglas North David Ashford had tabled a motion calling for the free licences to be reintroduced and for the Manx government to place pressure on the BBC to agree to the same funding arrangements as those in place in the UK.

Mr Ashford said the measure had caused ‘great harm for little gain’: ‘We should be speaking as a matter of urgency with the BBC.’

His call was seconded by Rob Callister (Onchan) who said this had been one of the biggest topics on the doorstep during the election campaign. He said he had met two constituents aged over 93 who had both asked the same question - ‘why now, why at their age?’

Moving his amendment, Mr Cannan said it was unfortunate that free TV licences could not be reintroduced on a like-for-like basis as the UK legislation had been repealed at the request of the last Manx administration.

Instead there would be a rebate scheme. The cost, of around £700,000 a year, would be covered by savings in jobseekers’ allowance payment due to lower than expected unemployment.

Criticising the way the free licences had been scrapped, Mr Cannan said: ‘The manner in which this change was conducted was unacceptable.’

Juan Turner MLC said he felt we were going ‘cap in hand’ to the BBC. ‘They’ve got the cake and eaten it because we are still paying the bill. We should not be asking the BBC to agree, we should be telling them.’

Treasury member Bill Henderson MLC said there was dialogue going on behind the scenes with the BBC.

Policy and Reform Minister Chris Thomas said: ‘The Isle of Man and the UK will come together in 2020 - that’s already been agreed.’

Tynwald unanimously approved the motion as amended.

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