Fears vulnerable people will suffer when Universal Credit comes to Norwich next summer

Photo: Nick Butcher.

Photo: Nick Butcher.

EDP pics © 2007

Vulnerable people could be hit hard by the roll-out of Universal Credit into Norwich next summer, councillors have warned, as preparations are made to cope with the benefit shake-up.

The government scheme will see a bundle of income-based benefits, including Jobseekers’ Allowance, tax credits and housing benefit - merged into one payment.

But the attempt to reform the benefits system has proved controversial.

Great Yarmouth was picked as a pilot area, but there were problems with claimants going without income for weeks and landlords not receiving rent.

Councillors at City Hall said officers are working to get a system in place ahead of Universal Credit’s introduction in Norwich next June.

But they fear vulnerable people will suffer once the reform comes in and, at a council meeting tonight, agreed a motion calling for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to meet council leader Alan Waters to hear the authority’s concerns.

Councillors also agreed to call for a redesign of Universal Credit to end six week delays in payments, for the “punitive” sanctions regime to be scrapped, for the bedroom tax to be dropped and for housing support for under-21s to be reinstated.

Labour’s Karen Davis, who proposed the motion said Universal Credit would cause “serious hardship” to some of the most vulnerable people in the city.

She said: “The government must learn, listen and adapt its policy.”

The Greens and Liberal Democrats both backed the motion. Green councillor David Raby said: “Universal Credit was supposed to simplify the benefit system, but if anything, it seems in some respects to have done the opposite.”

And Lib Dem Judith Lubbock said: “It has led to hardship for vulnerable people, including six week delays in payments.”

• A Green motion, backed by the Lib Dems, asking the council to call for proportional voting in local and Westminster elections was not backed by Labour.

Green leader Martin Schmierer said: “By refusing to support our motion for fairer votes, Labour councillors in Norwich have shown they still don’t get it.

“We cannot have a ‘new politics’ with a tired, archaic voting system that fails to match votes to seats and leaves voters disillusioned.”

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