Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said the party would scrap the Universal Credit system and replace it when he addressed supporters at the Labour Roots Rally at Sussex College today (Saturday, October 12).
More than 200 people packed into the college atrium and there were loud cheers when Mr Corbyn took to the stage.
Speaking earlier to the Observer, Mr Corbyn said that Labour saw Hastings and Rye as a winnable seat and praised local candidate and council leader Peter Chowney, commenting: “Peter is a very good candidate who has a great love for the town and people. I am impressed with his knowledge of the town. Yes we can win it. We came very close last time.”
Mr Corbyn spoke about poverty and low earnings and said a caring approach was needed ‘to reduce the number of rough sleepers and those relying on foodbanks’.
He commented: “Ten years ago, most people had not even heard about foodbanks.”
He added: “People living in towns like Hastings earn, on average £1,500 a year less than those living inland.”
Speaking about Universal Credit, which was trialled in Hastings before being rolled out to the rest of the UK, he said: “It is a grotesque and brutal system and Labour would get rid of it.”
He picked on the so called ‘rape clause’ saying: “It is wrong that a woman should be subjected to intrusive and upsetting questioning over this.”
He also criticised the ‘two child’ Universal Credit policy, which was established in April 2017, providing support for a maximum of only two children, saying: “Getting rid of this alone will stop up to 300,000 more children being pushed into poverty.
“The five week wait for money under Universal Credit has seen people unable to pay their rent on time and risk being made ‘voluntarily homeless’ by landlords who apply the letter of the rules.”
Addressing the rally, Mr Corbyn said: “Poverty and inequality is not inevitable. In the fifth richest country in the world no one should be forced to rely on a foodbank to feed their family, no one should be sleeping rough on our streets and nobody should be working for poverty wages.
“We will completely transform the way our economy works by bringing in a Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour, ending the inhumane and barbaric Universal Credit, cap rents, building a million genuinely affordable homes and delivering the biggest extension of rights for workers our country has ever seen to tip power away from bosses and into the hands of the people.”
Saturday’s event also saw Labour MP Diane Abbott speaking about the Refugee Buddy project, She was joined by Hastings residents who have been organising a show of solidarity with settled refugees.
There was also a discussion entitled Winning the Green Industrial Revolution with local activists speaking on what it means for Hastings, including green jobs, teaching new green skills and creating a cleaner community.
See also: Grand Designs films on Hastings Pier