LEIGH MP Jo Platt has labelled the Government "scandalous" after the BBC announced free licence fees for over-75s will be means-tested.

From June 2020 around 3.7 million households, which previously received a free licence, will now have to fork out to pay the cost.

It is thought 1.5 million households will be eligible for the free licence under the new scheme, which will cost the BBC around £250 million by 2021/22 depending on the take-up.

Jo Platt said: "It is scandalous that the Government have absolved themselves of a decision that will see over 4,000 households in Leigh faced with the loss of their free TV licence.

“In the last Conservative Party manifesto they promised to keep TV licences for all over-75’s.

"The Government’s decision to force the BBC to find the funding for free TV licences is just a form a offloading responsibility in the same way they’ve forced local councils across the country to implement their austerity agenda since 2010.

“This decision will understandably cause a great deal of anxiety to our older residents who often rely on television as a source of companionship with loneliness and social isolation on the rise."

The Government has expressed its "disappointment" about the move.

A Government spokesman said: "We’re very disappointed with this decision - we’ve been clear that we want and expect the BBC to continue this concession.

"People across the country value television as a way to stay connected, and we want the BBC to look at further ways to support older people.

"Taxpayers want to see the BBC using its substantial licence fee income in an appropriate way to ensure it delivers for UK audiences, which includes showing restraint on salaries for senior staff."

Licence fees were being reviewed by the BBC, with the full cost of concession due to be passed to the corporation from government in June 2020.

Facing financial pressures and attempting to streamline, the BBC has said previously that shouldering the burden of free licences would “fundamentally change” the broadcaster.

BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall announced licence fees will now be linked to Pension Credit and will be means-tested.

A BBC spokesman said: "We've reached the fairest decision we can so we protect the poorest pensioners while ensuring everyone will continue to receive the best programmes and services that the BBC can provide."

Chairman of the BBC Sir David Clementi said: “Linking a free licence for over-75s to Pension Credit was the leading reform option.

"It protects the poorest over-75s, while protecting the services that they, and all audiences, love.

“It is the fairest and best outcome. It is one we can implement and endorse.

"This is an outcome that is the fairest possible in difficult circumstances.”