SHADOW chancellor John McDonnell pledged yesterday that Labour will scrap Universal Credit (UC).
Interviewed by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, he was asked to comment on reports that Tory pensions secretary Esther McVey briefed cabinet colleagues that UC could lead to some families losing up to £2,400 a year as it is rolled out across the country. McDonnell said: ‘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 role out 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.’
Earlier he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics that the ‘public will have a role’ in managing the renationalised Royal Mail, rail and water industries.
Asked would a Labour government extend its worker shareholding scheme to the public sector, he said: ‘Royal Mail or the railways, our view is they will be managed – the public will have a role in managing. ‘Whatever profits come out of that, the profits should go straight back to the capital.’
‘Will there be faces on the board?’ he was asked. ‘Yes there will, the public will have a say. Several people will be elected. ‘We published a consultation paper last week saying this will be how we manage this.’
He explained: ‘Expert management, workers representation, but also representation from the local community and representation from rail passengers or, with water and others, consumers.’
He said electing people to sit on management boards ‘is perfectly feasible’. McDonnell continued: ‘People are participating in that consultation because passengers on rail have had enough, they want a say about fares and the management of their system.
‘It’s the same with water. Water management in this country has been scandalous, it’s been a rip-off. ‘£18 billion worth of share dividends has been paid out, a 40% increase over the rate of inflation of charges, and a poor service.’
It was put to McDonnell ‘you have put forward moves to significantly curb and regulate’ the ‘gig economy’. Asked ‘why?’, the shadow chancellor said: ‘Because if you look at what’s happening in the gig economy, and in other parts of the economy as well, it’s low wages and insecurity, and to be frank, exploitation.’
He pointed out: ‘We’ve got nearly a million people on zero hours contracts. We’ve got four million children out there living in poverty, two thirds of them in families where someone is at work. ‘Why is that? Because wages are so low and work is so insecure. That’s unacceptable in the sixth richest economy in the world.’
He was asked: ‘What sort of stand do you take on the gig economy – do you use Uber?
McDonnell replied: ‘I don’t use Uber, I use the gig economy like everybody else. ‘What I’m doing is developing the policies that nail the system. I’m saying I must have used the system in the past, I’m not being hypocritical.
‘The way the system works as it is at the moment, it’s not working for everyone. That’s why I’m leading the reforms that need to take place. ‘During last week I was on the demonstrations with the McDonald’s workers, we had Uber there and Deliveroo as well.
‘Go and see if you can live off their wage packets. Go and see if you can live when you don’t know what hours you’ve got next week, you don’t know whether you’ll be employed or not the following week. ‘Their wage packets do not even cover the ability to live in our UK system.’