Welfare

02.01.18

Labour: Universal Credit directly hitting councils

Labour’s shadow minister for employment has attacked the government’s Universal Credit policy, arguing it is forcing councils to “pick up the pieces” and prepare for further damage.

Margaret Greenwood said councils across the country are having to commit resources from their own budgets to provide additional rent arrears support and increase staffing, as well as working with their local food banks and Citizens Advice to offset the impact of the new welfare system.

The opposition claims some councils are spending huge amounts of money to cover these issues from increasingly strained budgets.

Newcastle City Council, for example, is spending around £400,000 from its own resources to support Universal Credit claimants, around a quarter of which is committed to additional rent arrears.

In the long term, authorities have been setting funds aside in anticipation for a future strain on resources, with Tower Hamlets Council putting £5m away for support over the next five years.

“Universal Credit is causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas, and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces,” Greenwood remarked.

“It is clear councils are committing their own valuable resources from already-stretched budgets to offset the impact of Universal Credit and to prepare for the damage its roll-out could cause.

“This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll-out of Universal Credit so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Universal Credit has been greeted with concern across the country, with Southwark Council, a pilot authority for the roll-out, reporting increasing rent arrears and rising foodbank usage due to the uptake of the controversial system.

Housing benefit has been a specific issue because the time taken for claimants to receive benefits has left a large number of tenants falling into rent arrears – or caused financial stress across other areas as people try to deal with the problem.

In response to Labour’s attack, the government has said that councils providing extra resources for welfare is not specific to the new system and has been happening for a long time.

A spokesperson from the DWP explained: “Councils have been providing welfare advice and housing payment top-ups as standard, since long before the introduction of Universal Credit.

“Universal Credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes. It provides additional, tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.

“The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money but advances are available for anyone who needs extra help, and arrangements can be made to pay rent direct to landlords if needed.”

In September last year, the government changed its policy to allow councils to claim back over 80% of the money they spend on temporary accommodation as a result of Universal Credit.

This decision followed a major U-turn on the system, with a package of £1.5bn set aside by chancellor Philip Hammond to deal with issues created by the roll-out late last year.

Despite the spending, Hammond remained positive about Universal Credit at the time, saying it had encourage more people to move into work than the previous system but that the government would keep issues under review and “consider the case for further changes.”

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Wiltshire Council withdraws £20m plans to close special schools and reopens consultation

26/03/2019Wiltshire Council withdraws £20m plans to close special schools and reopens consultation

Wiltshire Council has announced it is extending its consultation on controversial plans to restructure its special education services and has wit... more >
South Yorkshire leaders make breakthrough in £30m devolution deal

26/03/2019South Yorkshire leaders make breakthrough in £30m devolution deal

The four South Yorkshire council leaders and mayor Dan Jarvis have announced a “breakthrough” in the stalled devolution deal for Shef... more >
Council leader reinstated after online Tommy Robinson comments amid Tory Islamophobia row

26/03/2019Council leader reinstated after online Tommy Robinson comments amid Tory Islamophobia row

The Conservative council leader who was suspended for sharing a message supporting far-right activist Tommy Robinson has now been re-instated by ... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the open — and this needs to happen as soon as po... more > more last word articles >
Wiltshire Council withdraws £20m plans to close special schools and reopens consultation

26/03/2019Wiltshire Council withdraws £20m plans to close special schools and reopens consultation

Wiltshire Council has announced it is extending its consultation on controversial plans to restructure its special education services and has withdrawn its decision to close three special schools... more >
South Yorkshire leaders make breakthrough in £30m devolution deal

26/03/2019South Yorkshire leaders make breakthrough in £30m devolution deal

The four South Yorkshire council leaders and mayor Dan Jarvis have announced a “breakthrough” in the stalled devolution deal for Sheffield City Region. After “years of impa... more >

the raven's daily blog

Councils Can: LGA launches Spending Review campaign

18/03/2019Councils Can: LGA launches Spending Review campaign

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, outlines his organisation’s campaign to make sure local government tops to government’s list for this year’s Spending Review. Our #CouncilsCan campaign to influence this year’s Spending Review is well underway and gathering momentum. The money local governm... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Camberley inspired: investment and regeneration

11/03/2019Camberley inspired: investment and regeneration

The decline of the Great British high street has been one of the greatest concerns for local councils in recent years, leading to some innovative... more >
Swindon's solar-powered recycling centre saves council cash

11/03/2019Swindon's solar-powered recycling centre saves council cash

Steve Cains, head of power solutions at Public Power Solutions, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Swindon Borough Council, describes the benefits of... more >
National Infrastructure Commission: Progressing the North

11/03/2019National Infrastructure Commission: Progressing the North

The National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) National Infrastructure Assessment was released in July 2018, making a variety of recommenda... more >
SARS II: Recovery made easy

11/03/2019SARS II: Recovery made easy

Paul Bentley, of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), introduces us to the Spend Analysis Recovery Framework: a no win no fee means of carrying ou... more >

interviews

Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welcomed a new member to its team. Matt Spencer, O2’s head of public ... more >
Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need to invest in technology to help make better use of their resources. Bu... more >
New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >

public sector focus

View all News