County councillor to return MBE in protest over Iain Duncan Smith's knighthood
PUBLISHED: 11:28 01 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:28 01 January 2020
A Norfolk county councillor will return his MBE in protest over the knighthood recently awarded to Iain Duncan Smith MP for his role in the development of the controversial benefit system Universal Credit.
Mike Smith-Clare, Labour party councillor from Great Yarmouth, was awarded his MBE in 2016 for services to community education but said he could no longer be associated with "an honours system that rewards social cruelty above social conscience".
Sir Duncan Smith, who headed the Department for Work and Pensions when Universal Credit was developed, was named in the New Year Honours list last week.
But the award has provoked anger among some quarters - and a petition calling for the politician to lose his knighthood has so far received more than 215,000 signatures.
Mr Smith-Clare said: "It is with genuine sadness that I have decided to return my MBE.
"I have made this difficult decision following the recent announcement that Iain Duncan Smith has been awarded a Knighthood.
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"Having seen at first hand the shocking poverty brought about by the introduction of Universal Credit to my town I am incredulous that the architect of such appalling social and personal misery should be so richly rewarded."
In 2016 Great Yarmouth was one of the first places in the country to test the Government's flagship welfare reform, which replaced lots of different benefits with a single payment.
The DWP has said Universal Credit is a "force for good" with more than two million people now being supported by the benefit.
Mr Smith-Clare said: "I can only hope that the incredible people providing support for those affected by Universal Credit or pension changes will receive equally prestigious awards."
The councillor will return his MBE to the Lord Lieutenant's office at County Hall next week.
He received it in 2016 for services to community education, with the medal presented by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
"It was a lovely occasion," Mr Smith-Clare said, "but I cannot be associated with an honours system that rewards social cruelty above social conscience."
Sir Duncan Smith could not be reached for comment.