ALMOST 2,000 people were caught watching TV without a licence in Bolton last year.

Figures released by TV Licensing revealed that 1,900 people in Bolton had been caught without a licence in 2012, compared to 460 in Bury, more than 1,200 in Wigan and more than 900 in Blackburn.

There were 8,900 people caught watching TV without a licence across Lancashire compared to more than 18,000 in Greater Manchester.

The Bolton figure was lower than last year, with 560 fewer people being caught, which the authorities said may be to do with changes to inspectors’ visiting patterns and new enforcement campaigns.

The average evasion rate remains at a low of just above five per cent, meaning almost 95 per cent of homes are correctly licensed.

TV licensing spokesman Lucy Baird said: “The data shows evasion remains at historically low levels, with the overwhelming majority of people ensuring they are correctly licensed. In order to be fair to the law-abiding majority who do pay for their licence, we’ll continue to pursue the small minority of people do not pay.”

She said the organisation works with a number of money advice groups to help people who are struggling to afford to pay.

She added: “If people decide to watch TV without being properly licensed, they risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.”

Richard Haymes, from the StepChange debt charity, said: "TV Licensing makes it easier for us to help clients keep within the law.

“We welcome the many ways to pay — this will help people on lower incomes plan and meet their TV licensing requirements and we would ask anyone experiencing difficulty with payments to contact TV Licensing so they can provide additional advice.”

A colour TV Licence currently costs £145.50 and is required by anyone watching or recording TV programmes shown on TV, whether they are using a TV set, computer, or any other equipment.