The coalition government’s benefit reforms are plunging into 'chaos', according to Liam Byrne, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary. In a speech in London he said the so-called 'welfare revolution' promised by the coalition was clearly in 'very, very serious trouble'. He pointed to failed reform of disability benefits, ineffective back-to-work programmes and looming problems over the bedroom tax. He claimed that complaints, delays and additional claimant numbers caused by bungled benefit changes had so far cost the public purse £1.4 billion.
On universal credit, Byrne called the implementation of the new system 'a disaster'. However, he said Labour supported the principle of universal credit and wanted the project to succeed. For that reason he was writing to the Department for Wok and Pensions to ask for cross-party talks with civil servants to begin, so that Labour could see exactly how bad things were and what was needed to fix them. 'If Iain Duncan Smith won't save universal credit,' he said, 'then Labour will have to prepare to clean up his mess'.
At the same time Byrne also warned that Labour would have to make some 'tough decisions' on benefits spending if it got into power after the 2015 general election. He said: 'Alongside some basic grip to get these reforms right, we need a new agenda to bring down the long term costs of social security and put some basic British values back into the system. We need a system that is sustainable'.
Source: Speech by Liam Byrne MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions), 21 August 2013
Links: Speech | BBC report | Daily Mail report | Guardian report (1) | Guardian report (2) | New Statesman report