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Norwich City Council plans to spend wages lost through strike on welfare advice

Strikers march from City College to City Hall. Picture: Denise Bradley

Strikers march from City College to City Hall. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant copyright 2011

City council leaders are set to agree to use the day's pay forfeited by workers who went on strike over pensions to pay for more welfare advice.

Nearly 300 Norwich City Council employees were among tens of thousands of people across the UK who either went on strike or abstained from work during the nationwide public sector strike at the end of November.

Those council workers lost a day’s pay, which adds up to an estimated £20,000.

At a meeting of the council’s Labour-controlled cabinet next month councillors are set to agree what to do with that money.

City council leader Brenda Arthur will recommend that the extra cash be used to increase the level of welfare advice services which the council commissions.

The council recently hosted a welfare reform seminar at which dozens of charities and groups came together to consider the potential impact of the government’s Welfare Reform Bill – which will cut £18bn from the budget over the next four years.

Ms Arthur, pictured, said: “We know the coming year is likely to be financially tough for many of the most vulnerable people in Norwich. And we also know from the recent welfare reform conference held by the council, that more information and advice will be sorely needed to help people get through.

“I hope colleagues across the council will feel this initiative is worthy of their support. And I hope those employees who lost a day’s pay will feel this would be a prudent use of this cash.”

The recommendation will be made at the cabinet meeting on January 11, which would then need to be approved by full council.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, was one of 18 Church of England bishops who recently signed an open letter criticising the government’s proposed reforms.

He called for the government to think again over the shake-up, which includes a planned £500-a-week benefits cap for families, warning that could leave families homeless by forcing them to choose between rent or food. But the government says the changes will mean 2.7m households are better off, with more than a million households seeing an increase in their weekly income of £25 and nearly a million taken out of poverty.

It says it will make the system fairer and ensure unscrupulous individuals cannot abuse the system.

Do you have a story about a local council? Call Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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