'The gloves are off' - Norwich pensioners fight against BBC TV licence fee cut
PUBLISHED: 16:16 21 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:16 21 June 2019
Pensioners and campaigners gathered to protest against cuts to free television licences.
In a measure to save the BBC £500m, free television licences will no longer be a universal benefit for pensioners from June 1, 2020.
Instead, only those on the lowest incomes will be entitled to one - meaning that up to 3.7m people will have to start paying.
The cut has been met with fierce criticism, including an Age UK petition which has exceeded more than half a million signatures.
And in a protest on Friday morning outside the Forum, in Norwich, the anger continued.
A group of pensioners, part of the Anglia Regional Pensioners Association (ARPA), lambasted the cut as a means to target "vulnerable, frail and lonely people".
Harry Clarke, 64, a Labour councillor for Dereham on Breckland Council, said: "The fact of the matter is that it is mental stimulation."
And while loneliness was a key issue, it began a debate among campaigners about waning public services.
Mick Hardy, 65, who runs Norfolk Against Universal Credit, said: "They've run out of people to pick on, now it's the pensioners. It's a poor tax on the poor and vulnerable. It's a total demolition."
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Mr Clarke agreed, and said: "Once you get rid of public services you never get them back. It is taking something away that has been established.
"It is wrong in principle and wrong in practice."
Bronwen Jenkins, 69, also outlined that the elderly have paid into the system for years.
She said: "These are people who have paid their licences for 60 years so they deserve it now for free."
Concerns were also raised about the cut's role in igniting intergenerational tensions.
Mr Hardy said: "It's the old against the young. Divide and conquer."
Ms Jenkins said: "Young people have it just as hard. It should be free for everybody."
Christopher Brooks, 75, chairman of ARPA and key speaker at the protest, summed up the mood of the day, and said: "We have to make a stand."
The BBC director general Tony Hall has said the decision was not an "easy decision".
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