If Labour win the 2015 election they plan to pause the governments flagship welfare reform.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves has said her party supported the universal credit policy in principle, and hoped to “rescue” it. She said the Department for Work and Pensions had been in “chaos” under her opposite number, Iain Duncan Smith.
The universal credit systems sees six benefits merging into one single payment.
In an interview with BBC One's Sunday Politics programme, Ms Reeves said: “We set up a universal credit rescue committee in the autumn of last year because we had seen, from the National Audit Office [and] from the Public Accounts Committee, report after report showing that this project is massively over budget, and it is not going to be delivered according to the government timetable. We believe in the principle of universal credit, we think it is the right thing to do.”
However Ms Reeves also criticised current ministers for not being open with complications that have arisen.
“There is no transparency. It's going to cost £12.8bn to deliver and we don't know what sort of state it is in. So we have said that if we win the next election we will pause… the build of the system for three months, calling in the National Audit Office to do a warts-and-all report on it.”
Mr Duncan Smith, in an earlier interview with BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics programme, said he had “intervened” in the implementation of the project a year ago.
“I was concerned that what was happening was that they were going to try to roll out universal credit in the same way that historically many programmes in government had been rolled out, which was kind of like a big bang, so you get everything ready and then you hit the button, and off it goes. Lots of things you discover later cause huge problems, and I didn't want to move anyone on to universal credit and then find that they suffered as a result.”
On Friday, the work and pensions secretary announced universal credit would shortly be expanded from the 10 job centres where it is currently being piloted to all 90 job centres in north-west England.
At this stage, the move would apply only to single claimants, who represent the simplest cases, expanding further to encompass couples and families at a later stage.
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