Helen Mirren backs fight to save TV licences for the over-75s.
EXCLUSIVE: The Oscar-winning actress has thrown her weight behind the battle to preserve the benefit.
Ben Glaze Deputy political editor.
Dame Helen is one of 20 celebrities who have written an open letter to the Government.
Dame Helen Mirren today backs the fight to save free TV licences for the over-75s, as more than 11,000 pensioners aged 100 or over face being stripped of the lifeline.
The Oscar-winning actress throws her weight behind the battle to preserve the benefit as campaigners take their crusade to Conservative HQ.
Activists will deliver 36,000 letters addressed to Tory leadership hopefuls to Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt , demanding the party honour its 2017 election pledge to maintain the concession for the length of this Parliament.
And we can reveal how curbs meaning only over-75s receiving Pension Credit will continue to benefit, will clobber the very oldest in society.
Analysis by Labour shows 469,622 people aged 90-plus; 109,083 aged 95 and over; and 11,688 people aged 100 and over will lose their free licences next year.
Activists will deliver 36,000 letters addressed to Tory leadership hopefuls.
Highlighting how each centenarian receives a telegram from the Queen once they hit the milestone, Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson said: “When you turn 100 years old you get a letter of congratulations from the Queen, but from next year centenarians could also get letters demanding payment for a TV licence.
“It’s a scandal.”
Age UK’s charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “So many of those in their 90s and beyond are in fragile or declining health, confined to their home and almost entirely dependent on their TV for entertainment and company.
Amanda Redman has also backed the campaign
“For this vulnerable group, the inevitable hassle and expense of buying a licence or having to self-validate their entitlement to Pension Credit to get a free licence may prove too much, consigning them to a life without television and stripping them of their connection to the outside world.”
Bectu broadcasting union chief Philippa Childs said: “This staggering statistic demonstrates the real human impact on potentially the most vulnerable pensioners of the Government’s cynical decision to pass responsibility for making decisions about future funding of the licence fee for over 75s to the BBC.”
The Conservatives pledged at the 2017 snap general election to maintain free TV licences for the rest of this Parliament
But the BBC was handed responsibility for funding the £745million-a-year bill from June 2020, under a deal stitched up by the Conservatives in 2015.
The Corporation has announced only over-75s receiving Pension Credit will be eligible.
Just 1.5 million OAPs are likely to be able to receive a free licence from next June.
An estimated 3.7 million will lose out.
Sir Lenny Henry has also publicly supported the campaign.
BBC bosses will be hauled before a Commons committee today for a grilling over the decision.
Director-General Lord Tony Hall blamed Tory austerity for the controversial curb when he gave evidence to a House of Lords committee last month (JUNE).
Age UK protesters will descend on Conservative campaign headquarters in Westminster as Corporation chiefs are being quizzed.
Backing the fight to save the benefit, Dame Helen, 73, said: “It’s just absolutely heart breaking that so many older people are going to lose their free licence, when television plays such an important role in their lives.
“In many cases it acts as an important contact with the outside world.
“I would urge all those involved including the Government to do the right thing and to carry on funding free licences for all over-75s – the cost of which is surely a small price to pay for keeping so many vulnerable older people connected.”
Lionel Blair was one of the 20 celebrities to back the campaign.
Twenty celebrities, including Dame Helen, have written an open letter calling on the Government to deliver the free TV licences pledge.
Signatories include actor Sir Lenny Henry, panto star Christopher Biggins, entertainer Lionel Blair, ex-newsreader Angela Rippon and actress Amanda Redman.
It says: “We collectively urge the next Prime Minister, whoever that may be, to save free TV licences for the over-75s.
“We’re extremely disappointed that free TV licences are being taken away from the vast majority of over-75s and are deeply worried about the poorest older people who are set to lose out because they don’t claim Pension Credit – a benefit which is massively under-claimed by this age group.
For those who have lost a loved one, live alone, don’t have family around and live with poor mobility and health issues, the TV provides a great source of companionship.
101-year-old’s moving TV licence letter
“It helps them connect to the outside world and brings news and entertainment to lonely and dark days.
“Responsibility for paying for free TV licences for the over-75s should never have been handed over to the BBC in the first place.
“It is the Government’s place to fund free TV licences and we call on the Government to think again and do what’s right for the oldest in our society. TV is their lifeline – their friend.
“Please don’t take it away from them.”
Others who signed the letter include former Shadow Chancellor and Strictly Come Dancing star Ed Balls, Countdown host Nick Hewer and Gogglebox’s June Bernicoff.
June, 81, said: “For many older people television is their only company in the evenings.
“It is a lifeline that keeps them involved, entertained and engaged and to take that away from them would be isolating and heartbreakingly unfair.”
Age UK’s Ms Abrahams added: “I think many older people will be hugely cheered to see these household names supporting their cause and they will be hoping, as we do in Age UK, that our new Prime Minister listens and takes back responsibility for funding free TV licences for over-75s, whether it’s Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt.
“The Government should never have outsourced this welfare entitlement in the first place but the new administration that is about to come into place at least has the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and right the wrong that’s been done to our older population.”
Tory leadership underdog Mr Hunt has agreed to keep free licences but failed to outline any detail.
But race front runner Mr Johnson has refused to commit.
RE-LAUNCH OF THE VOICE
The autumn issue of The Voice will see a full re-launch of the publication. We are moving away from a news focused strategy. In the world of constant 24/7 news, social media and video, any attempts to match this in print have become outdated.
We do however firmly believe an opportunity exists to produce a well read and important print magazine as a union.
With this in mind we will re-launch completely with more member-led publication including features from the workplace, branches and regions. We will still bring you news but to a much reduced level. We will see no reduction in our industrial and workplace coverage – it will just be brought to you in a more strategic and thought provoking way.
We will also use this opportunity to continue to promote our equality, education, young workers and retired member’s activities.
Additionally, we are delighted to confirm that alongside the new magazine we will cease the use of plastic postage wrapping and introduce a new compostable cover.
Finally, we have decided the stars of our first cover should be you – our reps and members. Whether at work or retired we want you to send us your selfies via WhatsApp to 07907 502190. Please get this message out there as far and wide as possible as we are looking for hundreds of images.
The Voice has a huge tradition in the union and rightly so. It is time to review its purpose and direction. We look forward to sharing the new edition with you in late September. If you have any thoughts or ideas we should consider please get in touch.
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OPENREACH Ltd – Driver Safety App
Branches will be aware that a driver safety app was downloaded on to our members’ iPhones earlier this year. The CWU National Team (NT) sought assurances from the company regarding its use.
The attached letter sets out those assurances including its voluntary use, access to the data and that there will be no repercussions for our members if they choose not to use the app. The NT believe these assurances will be welcomed by both those who choose to use it and those who do not. Its contents will assist our members in making that choice.
The company will be issuing further communications regarding the app in the coming days so Branches are encouraged to ensure members are aware of the contents of this LTB and the safeguards contained within it.
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KELLY MARY FAUVRELLE – APPEAL FUND
Further to LTB 425/19, which explained we would be setting up an Appeal Fund to provide a lasting memorial for Kelly and her son and to support the family and organisations campaigning against knife crime. It has become clear that in addition to the online ‘Just Giving’ page, which is going very well, a number of workplaces have held bucket collections.
Therefore, in conjunction with the Croydon & Sutton branch, we have agreed to set up a separate CWU Fund for the Appeal which will allow branches to transfer workplace collections once they have been deposited into their accounts.
The details of the Account for the Fund are as follows:
Name of Account: CWU General Fund
Account Number: 33019822
Sort Code: 60-83-01
Please can all branches ensure that when transferring money that the reference used for any payments is shown as ‘Kelly Mary Fauvrelle fund’. Additionally, if Branches are sending in cheques please make sure that the above reference (‘Kelly Mary Fauvrelle fund’) is written on the back of the cheque.
We have also received requests from a number of members for a national workplace bucket collection day and we can confirm that this will take place on Tuesday 23rd July 2019. We would be grateful if branches who have not already done so, consider organising participation in CWU workplaces across the UK. Finally, we would like to place on record our thanks to CWU members and the public for their outpouring of support following these tragic events. Our Croydon branch is in contact with the family and we know your thoughts and support is really appreciated by the family and our members in the Croydon office.
We will keep you informed of progress with the Appeal Fund in due course.
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MEMBER NOMINATED TRUSTEE – ROYAL MAIL DEFINED CONTRIBUTION PLAN
The Trustees of the Royal Mail Defined Contribution Plan (RMDCP) are legally responsible for ensuring that the RMDCP is run properly. The board comprises seven trustees, of whom;
- one is an independent Chair appointed by Royal Mail Group with the agreement of the unions,
- three are nominated by or on behalf of the membership (two through the CWU process and one through the CMA process), and
- three are nominated by Royal Mail Group.
Both of the member-nominated positions through the CWU process have become vacant and so nominations are now being sought. Nominations can be from any individual who is a current member of the RMDCP, irrespective of Union membership. A self-nomination form is attached which once completed should be returned to the Senior Deputy General Secretary’s department at CWU HQ, by 15thAugust 2019.
All Candidates will be required to submit a 200-word (maximum) statement supporting their candidature for election to the position when returning their nomination forms.
Individuals wishing to understand the role of a trustee can visit the Pensions Regulator’s website and read the ‘Guide for New Trustees’ and the ‘Trustee Toolkit’ and review the first two e-learning modules for more information.
Upon receipt of a nomination, an information pack will be dispatched to the individual who has submitted the nomination. The pack will contain information on the role and responsibilities of a Trustee, a detailed job description and a personal specification for a potential Trustee.
Prior to a ballot taking place all candidates who have submitted a fully completed nomination form will be required to attend a half-day pre-election familiarisation seminar in London on 22nd August 2019, which will be organised by the Secretary to the Trustee. At this stage candidates will be asked to re-confirm that their names should be added to the ballot paper and will also be given the opportunity to make any textual changes to their supporting statement.
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Any enquiries regarding this Letter to Branches should be addressed to the Senior Deputy General Secretary department for the attention of Peter Metcalfe.
Senior Deputy General Secretary