If @JeremyCorbyn’s @UKLabour had courage of convictions it would call for scrapping of #UniversalCredit

“Restoring parity with the tax credit system by reinvesting £3bn a year into universal credit is essential, not only to protect living standards but also to prevent universal credit’s brand becoming synonymous with such major cuts, resulting in significant opposition to roll-out,” it says.

Public confidence in universal credit will collapse without an urgent £3bn cash injection to reverse cuts that are set to leave millions of families worse off, an influential thinktank has warned.

The Resolution Foundation says a spree of Treasury-driven welfare cuts since 2015 has left universal credit unable to meet its original aims of strengthening work incentives and supporting the incomes of low-income families.

It warns that the current fragile political consensus in support of universal credit risks breaking down unless ministers refinance the reform and fix multiple design and implementation problems.

The original universal credit vision of merging six benefits into one to create a simpler social security system is still “worth holding on to”, Resolution argues, but it warns the programme will fail unless ministers face up to its inherent flaws.

“The government is rightly committed to the roll-out of universal credit, but will need to relaunch the benefit to both address the design challenges that are already visible and get ahead of those that will emerge in the years ahead,” said David Finch, senior policy analyst at the foundation.

The government is under increasing pressure to make changes to universal credit amid fears that the reform will reach poll tax levels of public unpopularity. Reports at the weekend suggested ministers were considering a reduction in the current 42-day wait for a first universal credit payment.

Although David Gauke, the work and pensions secretary, proclaimed at Conservative party conference that universal credit was “working”, he subsequently came under heavy pressure from his backbenchers to make changes and announced earlier this month that 55p-a-minute charges for the universal credit helpline would be scrapped.

However, Resolution argues that big changes to the financing of universal credit are needed to restore its credibility. It warns that cuts to work allowances will be a “major drag on the living standards of families on low and middle incomes”, leaving 1m working households an average of £2,800 a year worse off by the time universal credit is fully rolled out.

“Restoring parity with the tax credit system by reinvesting £3bn a year into universal credit is essential, not only to protect living standards but also to prevent universal credit’s brand becoming synonymous with such major cuts, resulting in significant opposition to roll-out,” it says.

The current political focus is on the hardship endured by claimants forced to wait a minimum of 42 days for a first universal credit payment. Resolution calls for this to be reduced to around 30 days, with the housing rent element paid within two weeks, to minimise the likelihood of poorer claimants running up debts and arrears.

Resolution adds that a series of other design flaws are likely emerge as “real world problems” as hundreds of thousands more families move on to the system over the next few months.

These include wider awareness of changes that will leave self-employed workers up to £2,000 a year worse off, and frustration over the complicated processes for payment of childcare support that have forced some parents to give up work.

It adds: “Until recently one of the biggest strengths of the new benefit was the near-universal support for the principle underpinning it of a simpler scheme that would improve work incentives and outcomes for low-income families. That consensus is now looking seriously strained.”

A DWP spokesman said: “This report fails to acknowledge the package of support introduced to help people move into work, including unprecedented support with childcare costs and wider reforms to taxation and the introduction of the national living wage. It also assumes benefit claimants’ lives remain unchanged, but the truth is [that], under universal credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

“The majority of people are comfortable managing their money, but advances are available for anyone who needs extra help and arrangements can be made to pay rent direct to landlords.”

Reverse cuts or backing for universal credit may collapse, says thinktank

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Will Jeremy Corbyn make UC work to the tune of £550 per month?


Celebrating a century of anti-totalitarianism


The Gerasites

By Oscar Clarke

This year is the hundredth since the victory of the totalitarian idea in Russia. And there is little to be thankful for about the world that was called into being by Lenin a century ago. The Revolution promised salvation, and a large part of the European intelligentsia embraced it with a religious fervour. It produced leader-worship, famine and slavery, all the while hunting heretics with an assiduity which renders the Papal inquisition inappropriately tame as an historical comparison.

But there is, nevertheless, something to be celebrated in the sanguinary centenary of Bolshevism, which becomes apparent when I glance at my bookshelf. There I see Koestler, Serge, Borkenau and Silone, the four writers to whom Orwell referred when he coined the term “the concentration camp novel” to summarise the literature of nineteen thirties Europe. I also see Solzhenitsyn and Vaclav Havel, Sebastian Haffner and Victor Klemperer, Kanan Makiya…

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Electoral Commission sued in High Court over EU Referendum


Waiting for Godot

What follows is the text of a Press Release issued last night.


The Good Law Project has initiated proceedings in the High Court to establish whether the Electoral Commission failed in its duty to uphold UK election law during the EU Referendum. The Good Law Project is asking the Court to find that the Electoral Commission was wrong to clear overspending by the official Vote Leave campaign.

The case concerns a donation of £625,000 apparently made by Vote Leave to one of its “outreach groups” in the days before the Referendum vote. If that donation was included in Vote Leave’s spending return, Vote Leave would have overspent by almost 10% and would have committed a criminal offence.

If the action succeeds the Electoral Commission will be forced to reopen its investigation. And it is very likely that either a public or private prosecution of Vote Leave will…

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Before saying they’d make #UniversalCredit work, @JeremyCorbyn and @UKLabour should consult Hansard …



How I and my DWP colleagues laughed, bitterly, at the answer to Question 83 …

Evidence Taken before the Public Accounts Committee on 8th December 2010

Q82 Stephen Barclay: It puzzles me; it just feels a bit like “Groundhog Day”. We’re getting the same announcements as per several years ago. We’ve got 5,000 staff phoning up saying they’ve got a problem. We’ve got the Department having an IT system that’s not designed from the point of the user. Again, in 2007 you were saying, to quote, “we will strive to design new computer systems and business processes from the perspective of those who have to use them on a daily basis.” And yet, on 29 November 2010 you are saying “By designing new systems from the perspective of the user, we will help to make sure that they prevent staff from making errors.”

In your evidence earlier, you were saying to us that it’s important to stop administrative errors from getting into the system, and I think we would all agree it’s a lot easier to stop the problem than to solve it. But you’ve got this wealth of information from your own staff phoning up. The NAO is going in and finding issues such as that your staff think the training’s inadequate, the guidance doesn’t help them when they need it, support for staff is not readily available and they’re working to conflicting targets. I just can’t see what has changed between now and three years ago, when, with respect, you were saying pretty much the same things.

Sir Leigh Lewis KCB, Permanent Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions: Let me give you some very specific examples on exactly what’s changed in relation to the IT. I can go with you on training and guidance, and I can tell you what’s changed there, because this has been a constant journey on which we have been taking action after action.

Two fundamental exercises, which we held around 2007 to explore how to tackle the top errors in income support and JSA, led specifically to two major IT enhancements, which we introduced at the end of 2007. These were to address major causes of error where the customer, the person claiming the benefit, is no longer a lone parent, or is no longer sick and their circumstances have changed. The enhancements now automatically issue a letter to the individual, telling them, in the case where a child is passing a certain age point, that their benefit is due to finish when the youngest child reaches that age. Having done that, the system then suspends the benefit automatically at that point, whereas previously it required human intervention to do that. Those are both examples, and I have others here which I could quote to you, of where we have been using our IT very rigorously to design error out of the system.

Q83 Stephen Barclay: So in terms of your major IT projects, how many of those are currently late or over budget?

Sir Leigh Lewis: Very few, actually. The Department has a very good track record of delivering its IT programmes successfully. The most recent example of that was the Employment and Support Allowance, which was delivered to time and to budget.  The great majority of the Department’s IT programmes have come in as planned and on budget.

Q84 Stephen Barclay: The 2008 Report that said that 19 IT projects at the Department of Work and Pensions were over budget and late was incorrect, was it?

Sir Leigh Lewis: Well, I haven’t got the Report that you’re quoting from there.

Q85 Stephen Barclay: This was from the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which identified, “Out of the 19 identified by the National Audit Office as being the most significant, nine are expected to be overbudget and ten are late.” This is an article in Computer Weekly on 19 November 2008.

Sir Leigh Lewis: With respect, I’d like to go away and check the Computer Weekly figures.

Q86 Stephen Barclay: Sure.

Sir Leigh Lewis: Not everything that Computer Weekly has ever published about Government IT systems has always been wholly accurate.

Q87 Stephen Barclay: I accept that, but you’re saying that the track record is very good. They’re saying that all the 19 big ones are over budget and late. It just seems there’s a big gap between the two.

Sir Leigh Lewis: Why don’t I drop the Committee a note on that one? It’s quite a way from today, but we do have a very good record.

Oral Evidence Taken before the Public Accounts Committee

on Wednesday 8th December 2010

Minimising the cost of administrative errors in the benefit system (HC 569)

Does @JeremyCorbyn still feel @UKLabour there are positives to #BREXIT/#LEXIT? Part Eight

The fastest monthly fall in high street sales since the height of the recession in 2009 has raised fears for the retail sector ahead of the crucial Christmas trading period …

CBI’s monthly survey of the UK retail sector has found that just 15% of retailers reported that sales volumes were up in October on a year ago, whilst 50% said they were down.  That gives a rounded balance of -36%, the worst reading since March 2009 when Britain had fallen into recession after the financial crisis.

Firms reported that sales were below average for the time of year.  Suppliers have also been hit with orders dropping at the fastest rate since March 2009.


“The gloomy CBI survey came as Debenhams warned of an “uncertain” environment on the high street in the run up to Christmas after suffering a 44% dive in profits.

The department store confirmed the closure of two stores, in Eltham, south London, and at Farnborough, Hampshire, affecting about 80 jobs, as sales on the high street continue to fall. They are the first of up to 10 UK branches that Debenhams has earmarked for closure.”

“The news that UK retailers suffered an October sales slide could weigh on sterling.

The pound has lost almost half a cent today, to $1.322.

It’s also down 0.3% against the euro at €1.119.

Consumer spending has been a key driver of UK growth this year. Thus, today’s retail slowdown may worry Bank of England policymakers, who must decide whether to raise interest rates next week.”


Alarm sounds over state of UK high street as sales crash