As the adverse impact of the ending of the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit (UC) looms, Coventry City Council has been praised for becoming a Right to Food city, despite Tory councillors voting against the motion.
Unite the union said the council’s support for the Right to Food campaign was very welcome as over the last 24 months the Coventry foodbank had distributed food to 18,000 people living in the city and as the Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street is reported to be ‘very concerned’ about the scrapping of the £20 uplift and is looking at ways to mitigate the impact of the £1,040 annual loss to people’s incomes.
However, Unite said it understood that some of the Coventry Tory councillors, who voted against the motion, helped out at food banks, which the union said smacked of ‘a cruel hypocrisy’.
Coventry City Council this week voted to support the Right to Food campaign. All 13 Conservative councillors voted against the motion. Cllr Christine Thomas, a Unite member, who spoke for the motion, said, “Many of the Conservative councillors volunteer at food banks, but when I asked them twice to support the motion which would make the government responsible to ensure nobody went hungry they refused to.”
Unite regional political officer Frank Keogh said, “It is unbelievable that Conservative councillors would not support a motion which supports the basic human right to have food to eat and not go hungry. I want to thank Cllr Thomas and all those that supported the motion. The Tory councillors’ actions are cruel and hypocritical, handing out much-needed supplies at food banks, and then voting against a motion that would enshrine the Right to Food in law.
“Over the past 24 months Coventry foodbank has distributed food to 18,000 people living in the city,! he added. “When you have no financial safety net, a sudden crisis, such as bereavement, a benefit delay, redundancy or illness, can leave you unable to feed yourself or your family. With the ending of the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift this autumn the situation is expected to worsen considerably. Coventry foodbank supports people who find themselves on the edge of disaster by providing emergency food.”
Unite has endorsed and promoted the Right to Food campaign and Frank Keogh said that Unite would continue to work with councils throughout the region to get the maximum sign-up for the campaign. The same motion goes before Birmingham council next week where Unite hopes for the same successful outcome.
Andy Street’s concerns come hard on the heels of The Health Foundation report today that warned that the UC £20-a-week cut will impact areas with the worst health hardest and is likely to lead to poorer mental health and wellbeing for thousands of families.
Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.
By Shaun Noble