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Local trades council ask for benefits reform

View south along Hall Quay in Great Yarmouth towards the town hall.

Picture: James Bass

View south along Hall Quay in Great Yarmouth towards the town hall. Picture: James Bass

(C) Archant Norfolk 2013

A group representing trade unions has called for a public meeting over the roll out of Universal Credit in the borough.

John Cannell from the Great Yarmouth and District Trades Union Council spoke during the public question time at a recent meeting of the full borough council.

He said: “In view of the current Universal Credit crisis, would the council agree to hold a public meeting where agencies and those affected are encouraged to voice their own experience of this new benefit?”

He added: “Furthermore, will the council implement a policy where those eligible, who present themselves to the council, having been evicted because of sanctions or rent arrears triggered by Universal Credit system, are not considered to have intentionally made themselves homeless? In adopting such a policy, the council commits to supporting the victims of the Universal Credit system find housing.”

A borough council spokesman said as the question was not a motion by a councillor the council could not create any new policy at this time.

Universal Credit replaced six other welfare allowances, including housing benefit, with one monthly payment in Yarmouth and Lowestoft this spring.

But delays in claimants getting the money has led to some of the poorest tenants falling into rent arrears and being evicted.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council wrote to work and pensions secretary Damian Green in November about the problems caused by the delays in paying universal credit.

In a letter responding to the council, Mr Green said the roll-out of the new system had been “carefully planned”, but admitted there were “areas for improvement.”

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