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Pensioners take to Britain's streets demanding the government funds free TV licences for the over-75s

OVER 1,000 pensioners took to the streets across Britain today to protest against the withdrawal of TV licence funding for the poorest over-75s.

Britain’s biggest pensioner organisation, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), called on people to protest around the country.

Action took place outside BBC headquarters in London to demand that the government continue to fund concessionary licences.

Other protest locations included Glasgow, Leicester, Chelmsford and Leeds.

An NPC spokesman said: “Over 1,000 people have taken part in today’s protests across the country.

“It marks the start of the campaign which is going to continue until the government takes back responsibility for funding the TV licence for the over-75s.

“We now intend to start putting pressure on MPs to force a change of heart in the forthcoming autumn spending statement.”

The Tory government has blamed the decision on the BBC, but the NPC has pointed out that the government has itself orchestrated the axing of concessionary TV licences for 3.7 million people aged 75 and over.

Concessionary TV licences for over-75s were government-funded as a social benefit until the Tories told the BBC that it must foot the £754 million bill.

This left the corporation with a choice between abolishing the concession for most pensioners or cutting its investment in productions.

The BBC says the concessionary licence will only be available to the poorest pensioners, those receiving pension credit benefits, from June next year.

Pat Milligan from Glasgow said: “A lot of women in my age group are widows or have family that live elsewhere and TV is their contact with the outside world.

“I don’t think it should be on the BBC. It should be on this government — it should be on the Conservative government. They’ve passed the buck to the BBC, which I don’t think is very democratic at all.”

Those gathered outside New Broadcasting House in London held up placards saying “The Great British Turn Off,” “Bashing Bedridden Citizens,” and “Don’t Switch Us Off.”

Ian Burleigh, 67, from London said: “It’s a stealth tax by the government hiding behind the skirts of the BBC.

“The government should have had the courage to say this is what they wanted to do instead of trying to get the BBC to do it.”

Ted Knight, 86, from Crystal Palace in south London said: “The government is responsible. It was a manifesto commitment.”

MPs have agreed to debate the issue after an online petition to continue to fund free TV licences for the over-75s reached more than 100,000 signatures.

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