'You could not care less' - Angry scenes at council meeting

Councillor Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Labour group leader Trevor Wainwright asked how the Conservative councillors were able to sleep at night. - Credit: Archant

Great Yarmouth Borough Council has voted against calling on the government to reverse its decision to cut the extra weekly £20 of universal credit.

At a Tuesday council meeting, Labour group leader Trevor Wainwright and four of his party colleagues put forward a motion for the council to write to work and pensions minister Therese Coffey and chancellor Rishi Sunak to reverse the proposed cut.

Mr Wainwright said: “This universal credit cut could not come at a worse time and ultimately will hit the lowest paid the hardest. 

“This will not affect the people that have got money - the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and that is a fact of life.”

An extra £20 was added to UC during Covid but the government is now set to withdraw the rise. 

UKIP councillor Carrie Talbot agreed with Mr Wainwright, but added: “These days it’s not so much a gap, it’s more of a canyon.” 

She said the cut was “mean, and it’s cruel, and it shouldn’t be happening".

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“It’s the difference potentially between heating and eating,” said Ms Talbot. 

“It’s a mum choosing between potential lice treatment for her children who’ve caught nits at school and tampons for herself.”

Conservative council leader Carl Smith said: “The cost of this uplift was approximately £9,000,000,000 for circa 18 months or £500,000,000 per month.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council leader, Carl Smith, by the Winter Gardens which has been awarded £10

"The plan for jobs is working, and the Conservative group will not be supporting this motion," said Conservative council leader Carl Smith. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

“Now that we’re moving back closer to normal, we need to focus on getting people back to work and creating better jobs and opportunities.”

He also listed several government initiatives to encourage job creation and reskilling such as the Kickstart scheme. 

"The plan for jobs is working and the Conservative group will not be supporting this motion," he said.

In concluding remarks, Mr Wainwright said to the Conservative councillors: “I don’t know how you go to bed at night and sleep but you probably do because you couldn’t care less.

“You could not care less about the people of this borough and the 14,441 people that will be going to bed hungry and cold in the winter.”

Michael JealPicture: James Bass

Michael JealPicture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

Labour councillor Michael Jeal suggested the council hold a recorded vote on the motion, so that each individual councillor’s vote could be formally noted. 

“If they’re proud of what they’re about to do, let them show they are,” said Mr Jeal.

The Conservative-controlled council voted by majority against a recorded vote however, and  the motion was then defeated.