FURIOUS pensioners will hold a protest next week at the BBC Foyle office in Derry after the corporation announced it was cutting of free licences to 75s not on pension credit.
The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) has issued a statement “calling on local pensioner groups, trade unions, community groups, students, members of the public, MPs and councillors to make a stand” on Tuesday, June 25 at BBC NI’s offices at Northland Road Derry and Ormeau Avenue in Belfast.
Organisers said the protest, entitled ‘Don’t Switch Us Off’, is a reaction to the BBC’s decision to means-test the TV licence for older people and the government’s decision to make the national broadcaster pay for the concession.
They believe it could be the start of a slippery slope allowing the British government to start scrapping the winter fuel allowance and free buses.
From June 2020 pensioners over 75 and not claiming pension credit will to have start paying the licence fee of £154.50p.
The NPC said: “We are absolutely clear. If we fail to protect this concession, the government will begin looking at the winter fuel allowance and the bus pass.”
Pensioner Martin Gallagher, from the Northern Ireland Pensioners’ Parliament, urged pensioners across the North of Ireland to mobilise and join him on the protests.
“We are calling for as many people to come out to these protests as possible, pensioners and supporters,” he said.
“When you consider that two weeks ago the BBC were praising the war heroes and now they are scrapping the TV licence for over 75s, it is just disgraceful.
“If this goes into action and they do scrap the licence fund, what you are going to see is a big increase in loneliness and isolation in people living in rural areas and older people living alone.
“That, to me, is going to have a detrimental impact on the health service in crisis.
“If we fail to protect this concession now, the government will be looking at other benefits that we are entitled to.
“Pensioners have worked all their lives to earn this benefit.
“Some pensioners are struggling as it is. There are people out there who can only afford to heat or eat.
“We need to make a stand. We want to make our voices loud and clear, we won’t stand for this.
“We want people to make and bring banners, whistles, drums and anything else you can bring to make noise.”#
The BBC has defended the cut to over 75s and has urged pensioners to apply for pension credit to obtain a free TV licence.