PENSIONERS in Tendring have called for the abolition of free licence fees for the over 75s to be scrapped indefinitely.

Pensioners in the district were left angry last year after being told free TV licences for the elderly will be scrapped.

It was announced that from June next year, a free TV Licence will only be available to households with someone aged over 75 who receives Pension Credit.

But the end of the free TV licence for all over-75s has now been pushed back until August 1 because of the coronavirus outbreak.

A joint statement from the BBC and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said do not want anyone to be worried about any potential change during this “ uniquely challenging time”.

But Sheila Hammond, secretary of the Tendring Pensioners Forum, called for the move to abolish free licences to be completely scrapped.

She said: “Self-isolation due to Covid-19 will only increase loneliness in the elderly.

“TV may not seem important when we are under the threat of this outbreak but surely anything that can make life more bearable for a lonely pensioner is worth implementing.

“It is already the case that many elderly vulnerable people have no other social contact and TV is their only friend, this can only increase over the coming months as relatives and friends have to consider the risks associated with visits.”

She added: “In the lead up to the general election 2020, Boris Johnson was clear in his intent that something should be done to ensure that over 75s should continue to have free TV licences, yet last week the BBC were sending out reminders to over 75s saying that if they are not in receipt of pension credit they will have to pay to renew their licence.

“We would like to remind the government that there are many pensioners who are just over the threshold for claiming pension credit but are still struggling with poverty, having to make the choice between food, heating, or some social contact through their TV.”

It was previously feared that Clacton will be one of the worst hit places in the country for pensioners losing their free TV licences with 7,910 of the 10,480 older households in the town losing their free licences.

The BBC and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: "As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a vital role to play in supplying information to the public in the weeks and months ahead.

"Recognising the exceptional circumstances, the BBC board has therefore decided to change the start date of the new policy.

"Our current plan is to now bring it into place on 1 August. We will of course keep the issue under review as the situation continues to evolve."

The Government has previously said it is "disappointed" with the BBC's decision to restrict the over-75 licence fee concession to those in receipt of pension credit.

Mrs Hammond said she has also written to BBC Director-General Tony Hall and Clacton MP Giles Watling to call for the plans to abolish the free TV licences to be scrapped.