BBC will spend £100million chasing TV licence fees

BBC will spend £100million chasing TV licence fees and hauling non-payers to court this year after over-75s were told to cough up

  • Private firm Capita being paid extra £38million to chase pensioners failing to pay
  • Capita was widely criticised in 2017 for using aggressive door-to-door tactics 
  • The firm last year received £59.9million from TV Licensing to collect the fees

The BBC is set to spend around £100million of taxpayers’ cash chasing the TV licence fee and hauling non-payers to court this year after the over-75s were told to cough up, documents reveal.

Private firm Capita last year received £59.9million from TV Licensing, the body which outsources the collection of the £157.50 annual levy for the Corporation.

But following the controversial decision to strip millions of over-75s of free licences, the BBC confirmed the company is being paid another £38million to hire 800 new staff to send out letters and chase pensioners who fail to pay.

Private firm Capita last year received £59.9million from TV Licensing, the body which outsources the collection of the £157.50 annual levy for the Corporation [File photo]

If Capita’s overall collection contract remains the same in 2019/20, it means up to £97.9million of taxpayers’ cash could go to the firm this year – a figure described as ‘sickening’ by older people’s groups. 

The shocking figures are highlighted in documents published by TV Licensing and the BBC online.

Capita was widely criticised for using aggressive door-to-door tactics and paying staff hefty bonuses of up to £15,000 a year if they hit targets of catching 28 fee evaders a week in a Daily Mail investigation in February 2017.

It prompted the resignation of the firm’s £2.7million-a-year boss Andy Parker a month later. 

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen (pictured) said scrapping the free licence is ‘a cynical betrayal’ and that he doesn’t ‘know how the BBC management and its talent sleep at night knowing their wages are paid by taking money from our elderly and infirm’

Last night the BBC insisted no over-75s without a TV licence would be visited by enforcement staff and no on-the-spot payments would be taken during a ‘transition period’ of an unspecified length while changes are made.

But campaigners say it is only a matter of time before vulnerable pensioners are threatened with fines, court and prosecution on their doorsteps. 

Dennis Reed, director of pensioner campaign group Silver Voices which highlighted the figures to the Mail, said: ‘It is sickening. 

The £100million contract with the BBC would pay for 635,000 licences for older people and the annual salary of Capita’s chief executive would pay for [another] 12,700.’

He said the group does not believe enforcers will ‘go easy’ on the elderly, adding: ‘We need to know that instructions have been given to enforcers to treat vulnerable people with respect.’ 

According to figures from TV Licensing online, Capita was paid £59.9million in 2018/19 to chase and collect the TV levy from all age groups – a drop of £1.5million on the previous 12 months and a figure which the National Audit Office subsequently insisted was value for money for taxpayers.

The BBC Decision Document, which outlined the reasons for scrapping the licence fee rebate, said an extra £38million would be needed to implement collection from over-75s, falling to £13million in 2021/22.

The BBC confirmed to the Mail that most of the 800 new staff given the task of sending letters to pensioners, answering queries and chasing payments would be employed by Capita. 

It insisted ‘visiting officers’ receive commission on licence sales, not on the number of people they get to court.

Following the controversial decision to strip millions of over-75s of free licences, the BBC confirmed the company is being paid another £38million to hire 800 new staff to send out letters and chase pensioners who fail to pay [File photo]

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said scrapping the free licence is ‘a cynical betrayal’ and that he doesn’t ‘know how the BBC management and its talent sleep at night knowing their wages are paid by taking money from our elderly and infirm’.

The BBC paid for 3.7million older people to receive free licences from 2015 when a new financing deal was brokered by the Government. 

But the Corporation claims it can no longer afford the £750million annual cost and, as of August 1, most will have to pay. Those receiving Pension Credit will be exempt.

Jan Shortt, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said it told the BBC it was ‘entirely unhappy’ with Capita being awarded the contract.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, added: ‘The fact that these free TV licences have been taken away in such an underhand way has offended many older people’s sense of fair play and significant numbers seem committed to doing everything they can to frustrate the new scheme.’

A spokesman for TV Licensing, on behalf of the BBC, said: ‘No one needs to do anything until they have received a letter from TV Licensing.’

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