PENSIONERS in Oxfordshire raised an alarm ahead of the controversial television licence hike next month, which experts have warned could push pensioners into ‘poverty’.

In under five weeks’ time thousands of people will have to find an extra £3 every week to pay for their television licence after the Government announced plans to scrap the scheme.

The current benefit for over-75s will cease on July 31 and up to 3.7 million pensioners will have to fork out to watch the BBC on TV and on iPlayer according to the National Pensioners Convention. (NPC).

John Paine, secretary of Oxfordshire NPC group, said: “Once again pensioners are having to pay for bad government policies.

“The state pension is so inadequate many older people struggle to live, eat and heat.

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“Already 1.9 million UK pensioners live in poverty according to a study from Age UK.

“It is anticipated that a further 50,000 pensioners, not on pension credit, will be pushed into poverty, because they will lose their free TV licence.”

Millions of pensioners received letters this year informing them they must start paying the £157.50 fee from June 1.

However, plans were pushed back to August in the wake of the pandemic.

TV licences were deemed necessary in keeping the elderly, who are more at risk from the effects of Covid-19, informed as the pandemic spread.

But the BBC is expected to grant a second reprieve to pensioners by delaying the scrapping of the universal scheme until at least October, the Sunday Times reported earlier this week.

The move is set to be discussed at a board meeting next month, the newspaper said.

In June last year pensioners rallied outside the BBC Radion headquarters in Summertown to protest against the removal of the benefit.

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Organised by the local NPC group, it followed a similar demonstration in London.

At the time Mr Paine said the social welfare benefit is 'a direct responsibility of the Government' and added that the Government is trying to 'get out' of the responsibility.

The 77-year-old secretary added: "The BBC is not being funded adequately by the Government to take this on."

The threat of scrapping the free licence drew heavy criticism from campaigners who highlighted its importance for the elderly.

Despite this the Government has refused to make a U-turn on the controversial policy.