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Call for pilot scheme giving monthly income to all in Norwich is backed

PUBLISHED: 21:32 21 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:49 22 July 2020

Green city councillor Jamie Osborn (left) and Labour city councillor Karen Davis (right). Picture: Ella Wilkinson/Supplied by Jamie Osborn

Green city councillor Jamie Osborn (left) and Labour city councillor Karen Davis (right). Picture: Ella Wilkinson/Supplied by Jamie Osborn

Ella Wilkinson/Supplied by Jamie Osborn

The leader of Norwich City Council has said the government is responsible for ‘state-sponsored child abuse’ because of the number of children going hungry.

Labour city councillor Karen Davis. Picture: Ella WilkinsonLabour city councillor Karen Davis. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

City Hall’s Labour leader Alan Waters made the comment during a debate over whether to ask the government for Norwich to be used as a pilot where everyone in the city would get a fixed monthly income, regardless of employment status, wealth or marital status.

A motion by Labour’s Karen Davis that the city should ask to test out a new Universal Basic Income (UBI) system and for a £15 per week increase in child benefit was agreed by the council.

Supporters of UBI say it would be better than the current means-tested Universal Credit benefit and could be paid for via taxation.

Norwich Job Centre Plus had more than 24,500 Universal Credit claimants, as of last Thursday, Ms Davis told the council, as she outlined the work done by foodbanks in the city during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “The past 15 weeks have been some of the hardest, most exhausting and stretching as the food bank I helped set up as a councillor provides the daily basic support and help to some of the most vulnerable in our community.

Green city councillor Jamie Osborn. Picture: Jamie OsbornGreen city councillor Jamie Osborn. Picture: Jamie Osborn

“It has revealed ever more the caustic, degrading, searing poverty, the insecurity and fear that runs so deep through such an ever-growing part of our community.”

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During Tuesday night’s debate, Mr Waters said: “One thing I’d say about child poverty is that it is an exercise in state sponsored child abuse and it is going to get worse.

“Starving children, or making them go hungry, or children having go to hospital because of malnutrition is five star abuse and the government is responsible for it.

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council. Pic: Jeff Taylor.Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council. Pic: Jeff Taylor.

“This government could change things tomorrow by ending the bedroom tax, putting in rent controls, supporting people with no recourse to public funding, building affordable housing and putting up child benefit.”

Green city councillor Jamie Osborn, whose own UBI motion was not discussed, said; “We know the current benefits system is becoming increasingly hostile and I think it is broken.

“The numbers of people claiming Universal Credit is rocketing, in Norwich, as elsewhere and so too is the number of people forced to rely on food banks.”

• The council also backed a motion, inspired by the Black Lives Matter campaign and proposed by Green councillor Nannette Youssef.

Unanimously supported, the motion included a string of resolutions.

They included that the city council would reaffirm that all forms of hate crime are abhorrent, that it would continue to condemn all forms of discrimination based on personal characteristics and would work with the community and the police in Norwich to ensure policing across the city is proportionate and fair to all.


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