Prime Minister David Cameron tried to sidestep a challenge from Labour MP Karin Smyth to set out a timetable for the rollout of the government’s Universal Credit to her constituents.
Moments before the Budget statement was delivered by the Chancellor, containing new measures aimed at reforming welfare, the Bristol South MP used Prime Minister’s Questions to challenge the government’s competence over Universal Credit.
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She said: “My constituents in Bristol South are still waiting for Universal Credit to be rolled out to them. In fact they are still waiting for a timetable of planned rollout. We are about to hear about the latest stage of the government’s welfare reforms. When will he finish the last one?”
The Prime Minister failed to answer, but said: “I make absolutely no apology for taking Universal Credit at a deliberate pace. It’s quite right to do this at a deliberate pace, but I can promise her that Universal Credit will be coming to Bristol South soon.”
Universal Credit (UC) was designed to replace other benefits and simplify the benefits system, with a single monthly payment into a bank or building society account, by rolling together:
• Working Tax Credit
• Child Tax Credit
• Jobseeker’s Allowance
• Housing Benefit
• Income Support
• Employment & Support Allowance
Originally announced in 2010, its introduction has been plagued by delays.
“It is right to question the competence of the government following its much-delayed delivery on the Universal Credit pledge it made five years ago,” said Karin Smyth.
“The fanfare that heralded Universal Credit had barely faded before the government started getting into a muddle and a mess over its introduction. People living in south Bristol really deserve to have a timetable put on this because it will affect the lives and finances of many of them. The Prime Minister has not only failed to deliver, he failed to deliver an answer.”