Benefits Chaos in Store for Us, Does Labour Offer a Solution?
The Guardian reports on a major speech to be given today by Liam Byrne, their Shadow Minister ,
“The coalition’s benefit cuts have descended into “chaos” that will cost an extra £1.4bn because of delays, extra claimants, waste and complaints,Labour claims.”
This is the bit that concerns us lot most,
Labour said the biggest cost would come from the government’s probable failure to meet its targets on the youth contract, which pays employers to hire young people. The government is projected to miss its aim of subsidising jobs by 92%, meaning 147,940 more young people on the dole at a cost of £9m a week in 2014.
The party said another large extra cost was caused by universal credit, a scheme to make sure people get all their benefits in one lump sum. Labour said this would need £300m in 2015 as the project had been hit by delays and IT problems.
“Universal credit was once a flagship, now a sinking ship,” Byrne will say. “If we don’t fix this mess, millions of families’ tax credits will be put at risk – along with billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.”
Labour also pointed to fraud and error costing £140m, the £119m cost of extra benefits caused by an under-performing welfare-to-work programme, and an additional £102m to implement the bedroom tax – cuts to housing benefit for households with spare rooms. It said tribunals related to people challenging cuts to their disability benefit would cost £290m.
Byrne will also call on ministers to impose a deadline on the healthcare company Atos to “turn things around or lose its contract” …
The BBC has just reported the speech Liam Bryne actually made,
He said Labour backed Universal Credit, which is due to replace the majority of out-of-work benefits by 2017, “in principle” but “the implementation is a disaster,” with extra costs likely to add up to £300m to implement by 2016-17. Mr Byrne says he has written to the DWP to call for cross-party talks “to see exactly how bad things are” with universal credit and “what’s needed to fix them”.
Labour would bring “social security spending” under control and “tackle these delivery problems head on”, he said.
The BBC’s Political Correspondent, Vicki Young comments,
A closer look at Mr Byrne’s speech reveals that his criticism is directed at the delivery of the programme rather than the principle.
He actually backs work capability tests for the disabled but believes another company should get the contract.
On Universal Credit, he says it’s a good idea, but needs to be implemented more efficiently – even the DWP admits it hasn’t been a smooth path.
As the Guardian noted,
“ Miliband has said the coalition’s welfare cuts will be a “starting point” that cannot be reversed without savings elsewhere, but promised an approach to benefits that will restore the “dignity of work”.”
Need we be reminded that it James Purnell, as Work and Pensions Secretary under Gordon Brown, who first put forward the idea of cutting welfare?
The final nail in social security’s coffin came with the demise of the Department of Social Security in 2001 and its replacement by the Department for Work and Pensions. The significance was underlined by James Purnell when he became secretary of state seven years later. He called it “an ideological break with the past” and dismissed the very notion of social security: “Security as something handed down; welfare as bureaucratic transfer; people as recipients of funds.”
Liam Byrne also has form on this kind of thing,
Extracts from Liam Byrne’s speeches of the past.
1. In 2011, Byrne told Labour conference: “Many people on the doorstep at the last election felt that too often we were for shirkers not workers.”
2. He told LSE a year ago: “Labour is the party of hard workers not free-riders. The clue is in the name. We are the Labour party. The party that said that idleness is an evil. The party of workers, not shirkers.”
3. An ally of Liam Byrne told the Mail on Sunday in Dec 2011: “Decent Labour voters see their neighbours lie about all day and get benefits while they are working their socks off, and say, ‘Why should I vote Labour when they let this happen?’”