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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Labour to u-turn on universal credit, but to where?

The fact that Universal Credit is flawed and needs to be reformed is widely accepted by anybody who has come into contact with it. That though does not alter the fact that the when it was introduced the concept of a combined benefit, which incentivised people to find work, had cross-party support.

This article in the Independent, however, indicates that Labour has now undertaken a complete about-turn on this position and want to abolish the benefit altogether. They say that John McDonnell has confirmed that Labour would scrap the universal credit benefit system saying “it’s just not sustainable, it’ll have to go”:

It follows reports that work and pensions secretary Esther McVey briefed cabinet colleagues that the system could lead to some families losing up to £2,400 a year as it is rolled out across the country. Watch more

Mr McDonnell said to Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: “I think most people have now come to the conclusion it has got to be scrapped. I’ve been listening to people over the last few weeks about the rollout in their particular areas. I’ve been looking at what the government has said, how they’re seeking to reform it – the reforms haven’t worked.

“I think we’re at that stage now where it’s not sustainable anymore. It’s not a system that can work. It’s not a system that’s providing the safety net that people expect when they need support.

“I think we’re moving to a position now where it’s just not sustainable, it’ll have to go.”

If Labour really has come to the conclusion that Universal Credit is unreformable, then, by all means, they should set out their stall and justify that position. However, the real questions must focus on what they propose to put in its place, how long it will take to develop an alternative and at what cost?

As yet Labour does not appear to have an alternative. Perhaps they should produce one before plunging the system and the lives of the people it serves through yet more turmoil and expense.
Surely, as Universal Credit has not been rolled out across the whole country, the first stage is to revert those on it to the old system of benefits (with its attendant poverty traps) and then start on a replacement for Universal Credit.
Not sure that it is that simple. However, if Labour comes up with a plan as to how they will do it, over what period and how much it will cost then we can see for ourselves how realistic the plan is.
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