Opinion: We’ve battled for pensioners before and we will again

Janet Shapiro from Hornsey Pensioners Action Group is continuing to battle for pensioners, this time

Janet Shapiro from Hornsey Pensioners Action Group is continuing to battle for pensioners, this time over free TV licences. - Credit: Archant

Hornsey Pensioner Action Group is proud of those members now in their 80s and 90s who took action to oppose what they thought was wrong.

Not forgotten are those who have since died. Our meeting on September 18, A Celebration of Activism, will present a few examples. This will be reported on hornseypag.org.uk.

Hetty Bechler, previously our honorary president, who died in 2016, was at the forefront of fierce opposition to the Archway widening scheme. Pamela Jefferys was heavily involved and will report.

Patsy Pillay, our current honorary president, was at the heart of the anti-Apartheid movement, actively promoting boycott of South African goods outside Muswell Hill shops.

Stephanie Ramamurthy will report on the battle to save Haringey Libraries in the 1990s that resulted in all being kept open. There was a more recent threat to Muswell Hill Library; it was planned to relocate the library from the much loved listed building in Queens Avenue.

Relocation is no longer proposed but the need continues to secure funding for those vital improvements that allow access for disabled people.

In 1999 the Hornsey Central Campaign Group reported on its collation of 549 responses on what was needed in a newly developed Hornsey Central Hospital to provide a truly holistic community resource for older people.

Negotiations continued; even in October 2004 plans included beds. Unfortunately public funding for this scheme was withdrawn. In 2006 local activists, including local pensioners, campaigned to "save Hornsey Central Hospital". The battle was lost, the old building demolished and replaced by a newly built clinic. As that was funded using a form of Private Funding Initiative it could not deliver what the community had wanted.

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Later, the Whittington Hospital was going to be downgraded with loss of its accident and emergency department. Group members, even the very elderly, joined the huge protest march.

In all these campaigns the support of the local press, especially the Ham&High, was invaluable.

There is no shortage of battles to defend the rights of older people, but those of us over 75 are now faced with a personal choice. Should we refuse to pay our TV licence fee in 2020? Individuals doing so may face the full force of the law so the National Pensioners Convention is seeking legal advice. It is important that refusers get support with recognition that they are acting on behalf of all pensioners.

The facts are clear. The UK state pension is the lowest in OECD countries and universal pensioner benefits were introduced to mitigate pensioner poverty. It is a scandal but not all pensioners entitled to pensioner credit get it, yet the BBC will award the TV licence concession to those receiving pension credit.

Housebound elderly pensioners depend upon their TV for company and information. Losing the over-75s concessionary licence will increase their loneliness.

We have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanding restoration of government funding to cover the cost of the concession.

We fought for local justice so please join us in our fight: "Don't Switch Us Off."