Licensed to Extort

Among many other curious customs we have in Britain, is the way we fund our public servth-7ice broadcasting, the B.B.C. (The British Broadcasting Corporation.) There is a levy, a tax if you like, on every household with a television. Yes, that’s right. A one-person household pays the same as a twenty-person household; you pay the same whether you watch B.B.C. programmes all the time or not at all. People who watch only independent television channels or even just use their set to play films and D.V.D.s  are still subject to the same charge. The levy takes no account of how many televisions receivers you have. Think of a family of two adults and two teenage children.  Gone are the days of the whole family clustering round the television in the sitting room to watch the same programme. The children will be likely to have their own tellies in their bedrooms; there may be a set in the kitchen and another in the main living room.

I’m not against public service broadcasting. I think the B.B.C. is a good idea. While I wouldn’t say it is perfect, some sort of news and information service, not directly controlled by the government is necessary. The B.B.C. is claimed to educate, inform and entertain and by and large that is what it does.  The only thing wrong is the archaic system of funding this service.Public service broadcasting should be just that – a public service, like the NHS or the schools, paid for from general taxation and free at the point of use.

The current TV licence costs £145. The collection of it is both costly and complicated with letters and queries to non-licence-payers and television detector-vans roaming the streets to catch the miscreants who haven’t paid their fee.

Now we’re told that from 1st September – less than a month away – we will be required to have a TV licence to look at BBC programmes on a mobile phone or an i-pad. This extra extortion will be impossible to police. How many people own portable pieces of computer equipment that can download broadcasts from BBC i-player? A hell of a lot. How can it make sense to try and check whether little Jimmy is plth-9aying an innocent computer game on his i-pad or breaking the law by watching a BBC news or sports broadcast? How about Mum on her mobile phone? Is she simply emailing a friend (legal) or watching Come Dancing or the Great British Bakeoff? (not allowed) Then there’s the thought that a TV licence as I understand it covers a building not an individual. We found this out when the TV licensing authority sent us a letter telling us in no uncertain terms the we should not allow any of our workforce to watch TV on their computers as we do not have a licence. Since we are two pensioners both retired we do not have a large number of employees. In fact we have none.

Since a TV licence is linked to a building rather than a person someone going into a friend’s house or visiting a pub with Wi-fi could presumably watch TV on a tablet or a laptop to their heart’s content. And the friend, pub or coffee shop owner need not even know.

Yes, of course the TV licence fee should be altered. It is an out-dated and archaic system. The best replacement would be a standard fee for each income-tax or council-tax payer. This should be easy enough to calculate and would remove the chance or people trying to dodge payment. If it is felt necessary the “free” TV licence for the over-75s could remain, as could the similar concession for blind people. (Isn’t it odd that we provide something like TV free for those least able to benefit from it? Deaf people don’t require a radio licence either!) This system would also remove the regular badgering of those of us eccentric enough not to own a television. Just imagine if we received a regular notice saying “our records show that you haven’t got a shotgun license” and demanding that we get one immediatley, even though we don’t own a gun!

I suggest £100 per annum would be a reasonable amount to charge each tax-payer for what is after all a very worth while service. This should be easy to administer. Even the most incompetent of governments should have such basic information as Total population, broken down into those paying income tax or council tax and charge them a fixed sum each. People over 75 could be exempt, if this is felt necessary, as could school-age children. Then all that needs to be done is to bill each individual or household for the appropriate amount.

This would actually cost me and my husband more as we don’t have a TV (or a licence). But the idea of paying for something you don’t immediatley want or need is nothing new.  All taxpayers contribute to the cost of the Health  and Education Services.  We all pay towards the upkeep of our roads, even someone who never leaves their home. Will the government adopt this obvious easy and sensible way to fund public service broadcasting in Britain? NO WAY!!

One extra thought: it seems unfair that the licence fee goes to the B.B.C. and the independent broadcasters get nothing.







Lancashire County Council are planning – or do I mean scheming – to close half of the public libraries in the county. 

Incredible? Yes. Not their fault? So they claim. It is all to do with central goverment cutting the cash allocated to local authorities. Each year they are allowed less and less, while the services they have to provide cost more and more. David Cameron calls it “Austerity” – some of us can think of more accurate and less repeatable names!

Here is something I wrote about this situation in a hurry one Sunday morning. I don’t know where it will go …yet.

There are those who cannot read
Because they are blind:
They have braille and talking books.
There are those who cannot read
Because they are dyslexic
They have special classes.
There are those who do not read
Because they don’t like stories, plays, poems,
Anything that is not dry and factual.
There are those who cannot read
Because they have no schools, no teachers, no books.
Bare existence all they can hope for.
They have my prayers and my Oxfam donation.
Then there are those who cannot read the books they want
Because they live in Garstang
And their library will be shut
By Government edict.






To them that have shall be given…

This could well be the catchphrase of the new British administration.  One of their first moves was to increase the amount of free childcare for pre-school children. Great. Parents worry about the cost of childcare, some even find it  is not economical for both parents to work; unless they have reasonably well-paid jobs putting their children in nursery or paying a child-minder can eat up half a family income.

But what does our wonderful caring prime minister do for “hard-working families”? He offers an increase in free nursery provision but limits it to those parents who already have paid jobs. Couples struggling to find a job as well as care for their children are ignored. Surely a family where both parents are unemployed has a greater need than a two-salaried household? 

If a grant is to be made for childcare, it should be available for every child, not just those fortunate enough to have two working parents.  Surely a child with both parents out of work needs more not less help? Talk about catch 22. A couple – or perhaps a single parent – can’t find work because they have to look after a young child. Because they can’t find work they can’t get the extra childcare paid for by the state that might enable them to find work. Madness, total madness. And we, the British electorate voted this government in and we will be stuck with them for the next five years.

Another example of giving to the rich is the matter of the 10 % rise in MPs salaries, supposedly fixed by an independent body. I would agree that members of parliament should not decide their own salaries, but I can’t help wondering just how independent the body is that decides them and what criteria they use to determine it. Who appointed them in the first place? The government? Parliament?

It is particularly infuriating when workers in other professions have either very low pay increases or none at all. No MP should have a greater percentage increase than they award to doctors, nurses, teachers and local authority employees. Simple.

I’ve read somewhere that some MPs will not accept the increase and propose to  give the extra money to charity. Fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t solve the problem. The money has been taken from the public purse and won’t be there to pay for other things. It’s not even as if the cash went to help decrease the deficit that Cameron keeps bleating on about. There’s a thought: no pay increases for MPs until the deficit has been paid off! Why not?





poundCan you remember a time when people said proudly “I don’t owe anyone a penny”? If so, you must be well over 60. Nowadays the fashion is for ever-increasing debts. Odd isn’t it when we’ve a got a government that is always on about the dreaded deficit and how it must be reduced. (They never say why it must be reduced or what will happen if it isn’t. Just insist that getting rid of the deficit is the main priority of our fiscal policy.)

Young people start their student life by borrowing the money to pay for their degree course. Remember the 50s and the 60s? Our country was less affluent then, but we did have free education, free, not just to primary and secondary level but to degree level too. Just imagine it! No tuition fees. The average student had their fees paid by the state and on top of this there were maintenance grants for all but the richest. You could be a student and concentrate on studying – not on how to survive financially.

Now most students will leave university with a huge debt that they have little or no chance of repaying. I think there is something in the student loan scheme that allows the debt to be written after a certain length of time if the former student hasn’t reached a predetermined level of salary. Something like “ if you haven’t paid off your student loan thirty years after graduation and haven’t earned more than £15,000 per annum over that time we will write this off as a bad debt.” It might, just might mean you won’t be hassled by the student loan company, but it might also mean that you are labelled as “high risk” and won’t be able to get a mortgage a bank loan or even take out a hire purchase agreement.

It would be interesting to find out what percentage of student loans ever get repaid. Some graduates will disappear from the radar, some will die, some move abroad or be detained at her majesty’s pleasure – do you still have to pay off a student loan if you are in jail or permanently hospitalised and incapabe of work?


No one nowadays buys something they can afford and pays for it upfront, it just isn’t done. Most houses are bought by getting a mortgage, other items, cars, furniture etc are bought on a “buy now, pay later” system, even if it is only the now standard credit card usage where you build up a debt and if you are sensible pay it off at the end of the month so avoiding interest charges. If we had credit cards in the 1950s and 1960s I can’t remember them.

What can be done to stop this drift in debt? I admit I don’t know. One immediate and fairly obvious suggestion would be to adopt the Scottish system where tuition fees aren’t demanded from students.

Another approach would be for an organisation wanting to recruit graduates, whether it is British Gas or British Homoe Stores, The Bank of England or a local planning authority to pick their employees first and then pay for them to go to university and get the required qualifications. Conditions could be written into the agreement so that an employer couldn’t reject an employee who had satisfactorily completed a course of study, and likewise a student would not be able to take a degree at one employer’s expense and then go off to work for a rival. It should be possible and it is already done in some cases, eg student nurses in the army medical corps have their training funded by the MOD.