General election 2019: SNP calls for independent decisions on TV licences

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The SNP has called for TV licence decisions to be made independently of government, as it pledged to fight for free licences for over-75s.

The party argues that powers over licence fees should be removed from the UK government to avoid political "game-playing".

The BBC announced in June that free licences for over-75s would go, affecting up to 3.7m households.

The change is scheduled to come into effect next year.

The UK government announced in 2015 that the BBC would take over the cost of providing free licences for over-75s by 2020 as part of the licence fee settlement.

Under the agreement the BBC would determine, after consultation, what the policy should be - and then fund that policy.

The corporation has since said that the cost of maintaining the full benefit would jeopardise the future of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel and Radio 5 Live, as well as many local radio stations.

In June it announced the licence would remain free to low income households, where one person receives pension credit, but other over 75-year-olds would be required to pay the fee, currently costing £154.50 a year.

The SNP now wants an independent body to rule on who should pay the licence fee and how much it should cost.

The party's Brendan O'Hara accused the Conservative UK government of having "taken older people for granted for too long".

He said pensioners should get a better deal, adding: "SNP MPs will fight to reverse that decision and restore the free TV licence for older people.

"But more broadly, we need to stop future governments from similar game-playing and have the licence fee set independently of government."

The party's shadow culture secretary told the Daily Mirror earlier this month that the removal of the benefit was "utterly callous" and "disgraceful".

He added: "Four in 10 older people say the TV is their main source of company, but from next year 3.7m older people will lose their free TV licence".

It has also been reported that Boris Johnson is looking to save free licences for older viewers as part of the Conservative election campaign.

According to the Sun on Sunday, the prime minister ordered officials to find a way to ensure no over-75s would need to pay as a "priority".

The Lib Dems say scrapping free TV licenses for over-75s will have a "huge impact" on the mental wellbeing of older people.

They want to restore free TV licences for over-75s, and have these paid for by the UK government.

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