Universal Credit: a good day for IDS to bury bad news

It was reported today that Duncan Smith's flagship Universal Credit programme may not be complete by 2017 as originally planned.

Iain Duncan Smith 2

It’s extremely fortunate for Iain Duncan Smith that the Autumn Statement will be delivered by George Osborne today. I say fortunate because it’s resulted in a story which reflects extremely poorly on him being pushed down the news agenda.

It was reported today that Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit programme may not be complete by 2017 as originally planned.

According to the BBC, Mr Duncan Smith said in an interview that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that the Universal Credit roll out “may take a little longer” in delivering Universal Credit as it was dealing with a vulnerable group and the official in charge of the project may need more time.

Oh dear.

This is especially bad considering the Quiet Man had been insistent that the UC roll out was on schedule until as recently as last month.

On 18 November Duncan Smith told Parliament that he had acted to “ensure that universal credit will roll out and deliver exactly as we said it would”. “We have been very clear that we would roll out universal credit on the plan and programme already set out.”

“As I said to the hon. Lady when I appeared in front of her Committee in July, we have been very clear that we would roll out universal credit on the plan and programme already set out…”

He added that:

“The reality is, as I have said quite categorically and publicly, the report could be written because of the actions I took over a year ago to ensure that universal credit will roll out and deliver exactly as we said it would.”

On 14 October he also told the House that it “will be on time and within budget”.

 “Universal credit will roll out very well and it will be on time and within budget,” he said.

And yet today he’s been forced to concede to the BBC that the new benefit system will “essentially” be complete by 2017.

Presumably that means it won’t be complete by 2017, then.

In hindsight, former Prime Minister John Major’s comments on Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms appear shrewd:

“Unless Iain Duncan Smith is very lucky, which he may not be, or a genius, which is unproven, he may get some of it wrong.”

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