Green Party's Natalie Bennett hits out at welfare cuts

Natalie Bennett Natalie Bennett: "everywhere people turn there are benefits being cut back".

This region is one of the Green Party's centres of power.

They have six county councillors in Norfolk, so it's no surprise the party's leader, Natalie Bennett, has come to Norwich to launch its campaign for the county council elections.

Ms Bennett's visit included seeing the city's food bank. The Greens say recent welfare cuts will lead to a rise in people needing these emergency food supplies.

Start Quote

We believe we should have a minimum wage and we should have sufficient benefits and that should be paid for by making sure that rich people and multinationals pay their taxes.”

End Quote Natalie Bennett Green Party Leader

"What we want to do is to ensure that welfare benefit payments meet people's basic needs. We're here in the sixth richest country in the world and what we're seeing is more demand for places like this every week.

"We've got the bedroom tax, council tax benefit cuts, cuts in the Disability Living Allowance. We believe we should have a minimum wage and we should have sufficient benefits and that should be paid for by making sure that rich people and multinationals pay their taxes" she said.

Despite a lot of people wondering how long the Green Party could last, it has just celebrated its 40th anniversary, shaking off its tree hugging, eco-warrior image. "We have the same basic principles - a fair society in which everyone has sufficient, within the limits of our one planet" says Ms Bennett.

These days you're more likely to hear about the fight for a living wage than saving the rain forests.

Even so, will people struggling to make ends meet automatically think of the Green Party offering them a practical alternative?

Ms Bennett does not believe the party is a luxury for easier economic times and denies they are struggling to make their voices heard.

Wind power

She's a strong advocate of wind power, which she believes will help bring down the cost of energy, despite news that bills will rise to pay for greener electricity.

Ms Bennett claims renewable power is vital for the future: "we need that renewable energy", she says.

"We have choices, we do need to replace some of our power plants. What we'd like to promote is community owned energy where turbines are owned by people living there and profits flow down to the community."

She also criticised incinerator plans in the county: "they're a 20th century idea that shouldn't continue into the 21st century. We should be concentrating on reducing waste instead of locking yourself into decades long contracts with incinerators."

Norfolk has more Green county councillors than anywhere else in the country and they are keen to improve on that.

"We are hoping the east will elect a Green MEP at the European elections next year", she says. "We got 15% in the last general election in Norwich, we want to build on that."

Tough times put the Greens under pressure and the protest vote appears to moving elsewhere, so these elections will be a significant test for this party that has seen consistent growth for more than a decade in the eastern counties.

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