Benefits Reforms in Disarray
The Work and Pensions Committee has confirmed the reports of the National Audit Office of serious failings in the management of the Universal Credit project and has complained of the failure to provide accurate and timely information about the project. In their report released on 9 April, the committee notes that the original IT proposal has been scrapped and £34m written off. The committee then considers the replacement digital solution, and caustically reports that it is unclear
• How it will work
• When it will be ready
• How much it will cost
• Who will do the work to develop and build it.
There has already been a succession of timetable alterations and given the lack of control over the project it seems inevitable that there will be further delays and problems.
Cllr Ken Edwards, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield Central, said, “This committee findings confirm what we knew all along that Universal Credit was a great idea in theory but impossible to put into practice without massive investment and huge risk to claimants’ rights and the government’s reputation. This government is fundamentally incompetent. From the Treasury we had 3 and half years of unmitigated recession driven by austerity ideology or a cynical desire to manipulate the economic cycle for electoral purposes. We have had the fiasco of the National Planning Policy Framework which created a huge vacuum in planning terms which Councils like Cheshire East manifestly have failed to fill. We had the amazingly unprecedented top down rehash of the National Health Service.
Now we have the Titanic of Universal Credit moving slowly towards the iceberg of the election.”
Labour Group Leader Cllr David Newton said, "This project has been a complete botch since it began. Ian Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary has been so obsessed with forcing people into work without any proper regard to their real circumstances, that he failed to make proper provision for the establishment of sensible machinery to manage it. Because of the severe delays, many people now find themselves in arrears with their rents, and it is no fault of their own. This sort of mess always ensues when dogma rules over reality. What might have become a sensible system runs the risk of becoming a shambles and, as usual, it is the weak and vulnerable who suffer the most.”
Cllr Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “The benefits system does need to be reformed and simplified. It is tragic that the Conservatives have mismanaged this project so badly and tried to force through ideological reforms without addressing the practical problems of how it will work.
Millions of pounds have been wasted on failed IT projects and it is still unclear how it will work, when it will be ready and how much it will cost. The Conservatives are out of touch and have no coherent plans.”