Fury at Conservative councillor’s ‘top up their larders’ food bank comment

Conservative councillor Paul Hammond, right, pictured when standing for Ukip in 2016. Picture; James

Conservative councillor Paul Hammond, right, pictured when standing for Ukip in 2016. Picture; James Bass - Credit: James Bass

A Conservative councillor sparked angry cries from the public gallery after claiming people use food banks to 'top up their larders'.

During a heated debate around Universal Credit, Paul Hammond, who represents the Yarmouth North ward on the borough council, angered members of the public with comments around poverty in the area.

The debate came after the council's Labour group tabled a motion calling on the council to declare no confidence in the controversial benefit system and write to the government demanding it be scrapped.

But Mr Hammond, who defected to the Tories from Ukip in October 2017, said: "When I was campaigning for the local election I asked people what issues were affecting them and not one person said anything about troubles with Universal Credit.

"I find this all a bit bemusing."

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Mr Hammond represents the ward in which a school - North Denes Primary - set up its own food bank in response to poverty in the borough, much of which is attributed to delays around Universal Credit payments.

Mr Hammond added: "If you offer a builder a free cup of tea, they will accept it, so I suspect some people may use food banks to top up their larders." The comment was met with furious roars from the public gallery.

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The motion was tabled by Mike Smith-Clare, a borough and county councillor, who said Universal Credit had contributed to rolling the clocks back to the Victorian ages in the borough.

He said: "For three long years we have been ensured this cruel experiment would work out in the end, but now we have people having to sell their own bodies or live on the streets because of it.

"These are the results of a cruel, unfair and failed system and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

"It is now time we say enough is enough."

One Labour councillor, Carol Borg, broke down into tears while describing the hardship she had experienced.

Labour group leader Trevor Wainwright added that the first quarter of this year had seen 2,908 food parcels handed out in the borough, a near 40pc increase on the previous year.

However, Conservative councillor Daniel Candon said he believed fewer claimants were experiencing issues than not.

The motion was voted down by 19 votes to 18.

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