Even George Osborne doesn’t want it: yet another setback for Universal Credit

Even George Osborne is reluctant to endorse Universal Credit.

Even George Osborne is reluctant to endorse Universal Credit

It is being reported this morning that the plan to deliver the government’s flagship Universal Credit (UC) scheme has still not been approved by the Treasury.

The head of the Civil Service, Sir Bob Kerslake, admitted at a session of the Commons Public Accounts Committee yesterday that UC “hasn’t been signed off”:

“We shouldn’t beat about the bush: it hasn’t been signed off. What we’ve had is a set of conditional reassurances about progress and the Treasury have released money accordingly. That is one of the key controls.”

Universal Credit is a government policy to replace six benefits, including income support, child tax credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and housing benefit with one payment.

The revelation from Sir Bob is yet another blow to work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, whose tenure at the DWP has been plagued by setbacks. Even George Osborne is reluctant to endorse UC. And this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, for since the idea was first mooted:

Universal Credit has been criticised for lacking leadership. The National Audit Office has criticised the scheme for “weak management, ineffective control and poor governance”. It also said the DWP “lacked a detailed view of how Universal Credit is meant to work”.

It has suffered repeated delays. Earlier this year the Work and Pensions Select Committee criticised the speed of the rollout of UC as happening at “a snail’s pace”. The DWP’s original plan was for one million people to have been switched over to Universal Credit by the end of this year. However rollout is woefully behind schedule, and ministers admit that a full rollout is likely to miss the DWP’s 2017 target.

The cost has spiralled. It was reported earlier this year that UC had already cost the taxpayer £612 million, but at the time this figure was reported just 2,720 claimants had been transferred over to UC – at a cost of £225,000 per person. The DWP was also forced to write off £130 million in IT costs.

The scheme has been ‘reset’. The Major Projects Authority (MPA) listed the status of UC scheme as ‘reset’ in its annual assessment of infrastructure projects which came out in May. The ‘reset’ means that UC is being judged as a new project. UC was the only government scheme to be listed as ‘Reset’, with the Independent also reporting that the Major Project Authority had rated universal credit as ‘red’, meaning that it is “unachievable within reasonable timescales and to a reasonable budget without urgent remedial action”.


The UC credit scheme has cross-party support and contains some fairly sensible ideas to simplify the benefits system. However the bungling manner in which it is being implemented by Iain Duncan Smith’s department is rapidly becoming an embarrassment for the government. Indeed, once upon a time the honourable members in the Tory Party wanted the ‘quiet man’ to ‘turn up the volume’. Today they probably wish he would go away.


Commenting on the news, UNISON head of policy Sampson Low said:

“The delays confirm our warnings. A digital only Universal Credit will not work without the option of using local authority staff for face to face help and advice on applications and complicated changes in family circumstances. A local Universal Credit Centre could also offer the chance for families to have all their important documents, such as birth certificates, passports, bank statements, National Insurance card and tenancy agreements verified, copied and handed back to them.

“Otherwise families will have to send every important document in a bundle to the DWP in one go. There is only a limited amount DWP can accurately check using commercial agencies and the risk of fraud would rise considerably if they don’t check original documents.”

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15 Responses to “Even George Osborne doesn’t want it: yet another setback for Universal Credit”

  1. Kryten2k35

    No-one wants this and at this point, it’s not even going to save us money in the long run.

  2. Jennifer Anne Gould

    it will cause extreme hardship ,to many people ,if the payment is once a month ,how will people budget for the first month .another loan i guess ,and the dwp can take the loan repayment as much as they like ,this will cause hardship again ,how do you know whats yours and what is housing benefit /council tax ect ,some people will find it overwhelming ,and some will blow the lot ,causing arrears of rent ,more homeless to put in b and b costing the government thousands ,many vunerable people will need help and advice on how the system works ,where are they going to find it, and how are we going to find them .

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    Both the Tories and Labour are still committed to it.

    You have to ask why Labour has not repudiated it at this point.

    (The basic concept, if you exclude housing benefit, is not terrible, but this implementation is toxic)

  4. treborc1

    You mean the One Nation Progress party labour died in 1997 . And poor old Miliband has more strings attached to him then Andy Pandy.

  5. treborc1

    It will and it’s going to be but maybe that what the Tories and labour and the Liberals are hoping for.

  6. Kyle Anderson

    It is not Welfare reform, its Welfare wrecking… these crooks, misfits, chancers and liars are here to finish what Mags Hags and her misanthropes started in the 80 with Industry… Social Cleansing is very much on the agenda globally, as we have seen via the lie of Austerity … We are really on the verge of a revolution… we MUST be! Or people are just going to be done away with, hollowing out the country for Foreign Investment and the young enslaved to work for Foreign Investment … thats what happens when you let Rent Boys run the Country

  7. sarntcrip

    if you think ukip would make it go away you’d be wrong because they are thatcherite to the core and as corrupt as the rest

  8. sarntcrip

    universal credit is an embodiment of the nanny states pending loads of money to do what the government think people should do and being extremely uneconomic in the process how ridiculous is it for housing benefit not to be sent straight to landlords, especially for those in social housing, addicts will end up evicted as their problems gobble up the rent money why endorse a policy to cost more and cause greater and yet more costly problems

  9. sarntcrip

    I wish we were on the verge of revolution but it wouldn’t help disabled people in any case the media which is over 80%is controlled by non-domicile oligarchs like the Barclay brothers and murdoch who drip feed the tory agenda of demonising the vulnerable and lying about austerity and the banker built deficit those oligarchs like the tories are utterly self serving and committed to filling our homes with right wing propaganda ukip are far from excluded from it either for a revolution to work people would have to hear about it a couple of weeks back the beeb did not report 50000 anti austerity demonstrators in london

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    Where did I say that? In fact, it died considerably earlier. And Miliband’s problem is he’s too afraid of losing to have a shot at winning, it seems.

  11. Leon Wolfeson

    “how are we going to find them .”

    Well, the answer seems to be when the council is obliged to provide them with a pauper’s funeral.

    (Which, of course, the right is also lashing out against now…)

  12. Leon Wolfeson

    Er…sending housing benefit to landlords is a really, really good way to ensure that people in shared houses get evicted, since there’s no protection against discrimination against people who claim it. Never mind so many working poor people need to do so, there’s the perspective it’s something unemployed slackers do, thanks to government and media propaganda.

    So before you do that, you need an anti-discrimination rule in there. And to then fine people for each and every housing advert put up with “No DSS” in it. At a bare minimum.

    And then you need to deal with the fact that it’s then handled second-hand, so people will often be evicted because of a “shortfall” which they are not notified about because of council mistakes, etc. (Seen it happen…)

    No, while it might make sense in SOME cases (when requested), in general it’s a bad idea.

  13. Kryten2k35

    Yep, we were very nearly evicted because the council stopped the HB payments and never said anything about it. 12 weeks before we knew about it. We got back in touch. They’d messed up, stopped it wrongly, but refused to back pay to cover the arrears.

  14. Mick

    There are too many questions open and George Osborne is far too canny and competent to let IDS capsize his own office.

    I’m a Tory supporter but come on, if a policy’s boss-eyed then it shouldn’t get the green light. IDS seems to have plenty of dud ideas as well as some good and I’m fairly sure Osborne likes him in the Cabinet to deflect quite a lot of left wing riotous vitriol.

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