The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves says that a Labour Government would put Universal Credit on “pause” – the “roll out” would be stopped for three months while the National Audit Office assess it. Labour might then abandon it altogether.
The policy has the merit of getting round Labour’s muddle of whether they support the policy or not. But it doesn’t make sense beyond that. Why make the decision now when the election is 10 months away?
If they want to make changes to the scheme why not work that out in the interim and then get on and make the changes?
Most perverse is that Labour’s main criticism seems to be that the scheme is running behind schedule – their answer is a further three month delay.
It is estimated that UC – when fully up and running – will provide savings of £7 billion a year to the taxpayer – mainly by ensuring that those who work are better off than those who don’t. That will apply even if the work is low paid, part time or temporary. The payment will “taper off” more slowly as earning come in.
UC merges six benefits into one and it is estimated that it will reduce administrative costs by more than half a billion pounds a year, and levels of fraud and error will be reduced by another £1 billion a year.
The evidence from the pilots has been encouraging in showing the incentives that UC brings.
The savings will be huge – much greater than the costs of implementation including IT.
It follows that the sooner the programme is in full swing the better. If delays are unavoidable – to ensure that the technicalities work – that is unfortunate. But that can’t be helped. What can not be justified is an arbitrary delay for political reasons.
An unnecessary “pause” in UC means a delay before the billions of savings can be obtained for the taxpayer. Labour should be challenged as to how they would fund this delay – and what moral justification they have for keeping people trapped into welfare dependency for any longer than necessary.