£120k aid ‘to ensure no-one goes hungry’ in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is set to distribute funding in a bid to ensure no-one goes hungry this Christmas.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 10:57 am

The council believes that it could be in line to receive £120k from the Department for Communities for support at local level during the festive season.

Last month, Rev John Dickinson, chair of the management committee, of Newtownabbey Foodbank reported that since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis the charity has faced a “significant increase in demand” for its services.

Since the beginning of April, 3,654 people including 1,612 children have been fed which is more than the total of last year. Click here

Mayor, Cllr Jim Montgomery.

At a remote meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council on Monday evening, councillors agreed up to £10k each for the Neighbourhood Renewal Partnerships in Rathcoole and Grange.

Members also agreed up to £2k each for all eight ‘FareShare’ members; up to £1.5k each to 18 recipients of Areas at Risk funding; £16k for older citizens’ Christmas events and up to £1k to each of the 35 groups that supported food distribution during the emergency Covid-19 relief..

The Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Jim Montgomery, commented: “There is some decent money coming from DfC.”

Antrim DUP Cllr Paul Dunlop BEM thanked the council officers for their “ongoing work alongside community groups”.

Also at the meeting, the council agreed to support a motion by Alliance Cllr Billy Webb MBE and seconded by Ulster Unionist Robert Foster calling on the Department for Communities, the Department of Finance and the UK Treasury to “design and deliver a recovery Universal Basic Income (UBI) for Northern Ireland” which would see a “radical overhaul of the welfare system”.

The motion said: “This council is concerned about the impact the economic crisis, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, is having on our residents and recognises the need for a reformed fairer welfare system that gives protection to everyone in our community.

“The council recognises the necessity to provide economic security for all, and the need for investment in people to protect livelihoods, and also to help kickstart the economy.”

Cllr Webb said: “Covid has given rise to a considerable increase in those relying on benefits and using food banks.”

He indicated that a new system should provide a basic income and a “safety net” and would replace means-tested benefits.

He added that whilst furlough and Covid grants were “very welcome”,  millions of people throughout the UK are still in need of support.

“An income should be a basic human right,” he stated.

Seconding the motion, Cllr Foster noted that “Covid has had a colossal effect on financial and mental health” adding “the most disadvantaged have suffered the most”.

He commented: “Living costs do not decrease but income certainly does. This has a detrimental impact on so many”.

The motion was not supported by the council’s Sinn Fein group.

Glengormley Cllr Michael Goodman said: “The problem for me is that UBI as it is proposed does not have the support of evidence behind it to deliver the change that he expects it to.

“It is a one size approach fits all but does not target those most in need. It is our view what we need is a living wage economy. It may have more potential in the future. We will be abstaining on this motion.”

Cllr Webb said he was “absolutely shocked”by Cllr Goodman’s response.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Foster described the Sinn Fein absention as “incredible”.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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