SINCE Universal Credit was devised over seven years ago, the Tories have gone to great lengths to keep from the public exactly how it is working. Universal Credit was ‘sold’ by the then-welfare minister Tory Iain Duncan Smith as a simplification of the benefit system rolling six major benefits, including jobseeker’s allowance, tax credit and housing benefit, into one monthly payment.
Since its inception, the government has had 10 reviews by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority into the workings of Universal Credit, reports which it has refused point blank to release.
Last year, the information commissioner, who rules on freedom of information requests, ruled that they must be published in the public interest.
The Tories are still refusing and appealing this decision but they did concede to let the cross-party House of Commons work and pensions committee to see these reports with the proviso it kept them secret. Yesterday, the committee reported on its analysis of these reports with the committee chairman, Labour MP Frank Field, saying that the most damning point emerging from these assessments is that the government has yet to produce the full business case justifying Universal Credit and there is ‘considerable uncertainty about its costs and benefits’.
He continued: ‘The programme managers appear to expect us, the public, and the minister responsible to take it on faith that Universal Credit will deliver the much-improved employment outcomes they claim for the vast range of people – disabled, single parents, carers, the self-employed – who will claim UC.’
Field added: ‘They have produced no evidence to back up the key, central economic assumption of the biggest reform to our welfare system in 50 years. William Beveridge will be rolling in his grave.’
Beveridge was the architect of the welfare state whose report in 1942 aimed at the ‘abolition of want’ and formed the whole basis for the social security system introduced by the Labour government in the 1940s.
It is this crucial gain for the working class that the Tories are bent on destroying through Universal Credit and a return to the pre-war days where ‘want’ is precisely the only future for workers.
What has clearly upset the Tory MPs on the committee is that all the cuts in benefit from Universal Credit have not resulted in the savings promised.
This follows a warning last month from the Office of Budget Responsibility that Universal Credit far from saving money actually presented a ‘significant risk’ to public spending.
While workers and their families have their benefits cut, face non-payment of six weeks or more, with all the poverty that entails, the actual ‘savings’ to the welfare budget amount to a meagre £1 billion, just 2% of the total budget.
This saving, the OBR worries, will be reduced even further now the government has been forced to reinstate some of the cuts to the disabled as ordered by the courts.
Meanwhile, the Resolution Foundation has estimated that Universal Credit will leave over a million families an average of £2,800 a year worse off.
All the criticism by the MPs about how Universal Credit isn’t making the savings promised, that the Tories haven’t made a ‘business case’ for it, completely ignores the fact that from the Tory point of view the system is working as designed – as a tool to discipline the working class through fear.
In other words, it is a return to the days before Beveridge, back to the days of the 19th century with its workhouses and poor laws.
Corbyn and the Labour Party accept Universal Credit ‘in principle’ and restrict themselves to asking for it to be fixed – it can’t be fixed: it must be completely abolished along with this weak minority Tory government that believes it can impose rule by fear on the working class.
Far from being cowed by the Tories, the working class is now demanding action against the Tories.
This means the TUC being forced to intervene and call a general strike to kick them out and replace them with a workers government that will not just defend the gains of the past but extend them under a socialist planned economy.