24 October 2018 – today’s press releases

Back to something resembling normal today…

Cable: UC’s practical problems are being ignored, creating real hardship

In a pre-Budget speech to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation this morning, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable will call for a series of reforms to Universal Credit.

These include the reversal of cuts to the work allowance, worth around £3bn a year, and ending the benefits freeze a year early.

Vince Cable is expected to say:

The problems stem from conflicting objectives: providing minimum family income; providing incentives to work; simplification; and saving money. Simplification, saving money and work incentives have taken precedence over the first, crucial, priority.

Practical problems have been ignored creating real hardship, payment delays in the switchover, penalties for the self-employed; use of a single bank account for divided families; barriers to work from lack of childcare; monthly payments for those on weekly or casual wages; technical complexities in establishing online payment; and the use of Universal Credit to facilitate debt collection…

[But] the fact that UC is becoming loathed and is being implemented incompetently and harshly does not invalidate the reasoning behind it. I strongly repudiate the Labour Party’s suggestion that Universal Credit should be scrapped without being clear what the replacement is: a classic case of soundbites taking precedence over thought-through policies.

Moran reveals Raab has failed to visit Irish border

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has today revealed that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has failed to visit the Irish Border since his appointment in July 2018.

The Liberal Democrats accused the Government of trading “the lives of the communities on the Irish border for their ideological Brexit” after Ms Moran’s parliamentary questions revealed only one current Brexit Minister has visited Northern Ireland in the last 12 months.

The confirmation from the Government follows a series of Liberal Democrat freedom of information requests which revealed 182 ambulances and 270 fire engines crossed into the Republic of Ireland during 2016-17 in response to 999 calls, highlighting how a hard border could potentially leave people with far slower emergency responses if the UK leaves the EU in a no-deal Brexit.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:

It is shameful that the whole withdrawal agreement hinges on the Irish border yet the Secretary of State responsible hasn’t even bothered to visit Northern Ireland at all.

The Tories seem happy to trade the lives of the communities on the Irish border for their ideological Brexit. Liberal Democrats demand better.

The Tories are clearly incapable of finding a solution to the Irish border. The people must have a final say on the deal, with an option to remain in the EU.

Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day so, until then…

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  • It would be enlightening to know why the structural issues in UC were not picked up and scrutinised in the years before May 2015. Did the Lib Dems not have a Minister in the department ?

  • Allan Brame 25th Oct '18 - 1:33am

    No, David, the Lib Dems did not have a Minister in the DWP.
    Iain Duncan Smith, Priti Patel, Lord Freud, Justin Tomlinson and Rose Altmann were the ministerial team.
    Not many Liberals there that I can see.

  • Brian Evans 25th Oct '18 - 8:22am

    I presume that Irish fire engines and ambulances also cross the border on emergency missions. If that is the case, it would make a far stronger point to convince UK citizens about the wisdom of not having a hard border on the island of Ireland.

  • @ Allan Brame. It is my understanding that Steve Webb was Minister of Pensions and in effect Duncan Smith’s deputy. Indeed when he worked at the IFS his specialism was benefits, so are you saying the Lib Dems offered no scrutiny to something they trooped through the lobbies to support ?

  • Matt (Bristol) 25th Oct '18 - 10:11am

    David and Allan, I believe technically our man there was Steve Webb, who specialised in P for pensions and didn’t get much involved in UC. This seems to have been an own goal.

  • Matt (Bristol) 25th Oct '18 - 12:18pm
  • Matt, David, Allan – I think you have put your finger on one of the key flaws in our MPs approach to being in coalition. Each of our ministers had one area in their Department that was their main area of expertise, interest and focus. Hence in most of these areas, good progress was made in promoting Lib Dem policies and values, both at a strategic and a detail level. However, it is clear that they could not physically pay that much attention across the board and so too many things went by on the nod or probably without the nod.

    Overall it was the things that didn’t require parliamentary approval that got missed, where decisions are made by the minister/ministry and that is where the Conservatives ran rings around us. Five Cons plus their minions could easily keep an eye on Steve Webb, and it was an area that they were comfortable with him working in. Steve Webb had no chance to keep an eye on what IDS, Esther McVey (I think Priti was post coalition), Lord Freud, Justin Tomlinson etc were up to.

    Likewise Vince was very good in BIS, but what the rest of the department did at a detail level – who knows?

    With the benefit of hindsight, but also with the lack of foresight at the time, we were outmanoeuvred in so many areas and so got the blame for so much of the Conservatives’ c*ap.

    Because of our belief in the individual, we love to believe that one good Lib Dem can do wonders, but one Lib Dem against a team???? If there is a weakness, I would say we are not as good at working as a team as we need to be whereas our opponents (Lab, Con or even the bureaucrats) are ruthless in that matter.

  • So there we have it , no more ducking or weaving or self justifying memory loss.

    In Steve Webb’s own words,

    “Liberal Democrat backing was crucial for bringing in Ian Duncan Smith’s scheme”, (universal credit).

    Case closed. Guilty as charged.

  • Matt (Bristol) 25th Oct '18 - 2:16pm

    David Raw, I think the party has, to be fair, always been polite about UC in concept, but varyingly sceptical about how it was being funded in practice, with this muted noice getting louder from the late COalition era onwards…


    (Aplogies for the DM link).

    I think the fact that the party in 2010 couldn’t predict further Tory attempts to cut funds coming down the line, combined with a weakening of its ability to exert pressure, is still disturbing though.

  • Labour’s shadow DWP secretary, Rachel Reeves said in 2014: “We believe in the principle of universal credit, we think it is the right thing to do.”


    The substantial cuts to UC and most of the implementation have occurred after 2015 – that is SINCE the collation

  • Michael 1 25th Oct ’18 – 3:38pm……..Labour’s shadow DWP secretary, Rachel Reeves said in 2014: “We believe in the principle of universal credit, we think it is the right thing to do.”………..The substantial cuts to UC and most of the implementation have occurred after 2015 – that is SINCE the collation………….

    I posted most of this on another thread but it seems just as pertinent here.

    It seems that the knee jerk response, to any criticism of the coalition, is, “Labour”, “Labour”, “Labour”. Perhaps we should deal with our own history and let ‘Labour’ deal with theirs?
    The real growth in our towns and cities are the ‘payday loans’ and ‘betting shops*’, where the desperate try to borrow or beat the odds in order to survive. Rough sleepers don’t even warrant a second glance and almost 1 in 5 of those using food banks are those in work.
    Vince Cable is giving yet another airing to the, “UC’s practical problems are being ignored”, line; ignoring the LibDem involvement. For the benefit (no pun intended) of Vince (and some here) perhaps he might cast his mind back to Dec.2012 when the DWP admitted that 2.8 million households would be worse off and how, even earlier in October 2011 (when officials first considered how the changes would affect claimants)., 2 million were expected to be adversely affected.
    It wasn’t a minor matter, even then, as about 800,000 households were forecast to see an average loss of £137 a month, while the 300,000 hardest hit families would experience a loss of as much as £300 a month. About 200,000 lone parents were also to receive lower awards under UC than the old system.

    Hardly “Not on our watch”

  • Yes we supported Universal Credit when it was introduced. Why? Because it WAS a good idea IN PRINCIPLE. It still is actually. All the big charities supported it too when it was first proposed, as did the Labour party. Because the system it replaced was hideously complex and full of its own errors, with six different benefits; UC was about merging these into one. Much better for claimants, and more efficient too. The problems came after the 2015 election, when the Tories gutted the budget and screwed up the implementation.

  • @ Cpouncillor Shaw, what way, pray ?

    Have you read the Telegraph report above ?

  • @expats

    I was trying to point out that UC had support from all the three parties – in the face of criticism that it was the Lib Dems alone that were responsible. And certainly we can’t be held responsible for the substantial cuts that were made when we were not in Government.

    In 2012, the impact assessment said that it expected costs of “an additional £2.3 billion due to increased entitlement and take up.” Against savings of “of £2.2 billion due to reduced fraud and error, and reforms to the rules about how changes in income will work.” So at that point it was directing more money to those who are unemployed and on a low income – even if there were losers as well as winners.

    The issues around poverty and that you raise are complex. Many people survive more than adequately on benefits and/or low incomes some struggle – although I am not saying that it is ever easy. And there is a particular issue around the lottery that is housing now with some having very hefty private rent costs.

  • Michael 1 25th Oct ’18 – 6:54pm………………[email protected], I was trying to point out that UC had support from all the three parties – in the face of criticism that it was the Lib Dems alone that were responsible. And certainly we can’t be held responsible for the substantial cuts that were made when we were not in Government……………

    Michael, My post wasn’t intended as an attack on you, just the concept, repeated by TonyH (“The problems came after the 2015 election, when the Tories gutted the budget and screwed up the implementation.”), that everything was fine prior to 2015; it wasn’t.
    The concept of “6 benefits rolled into 1” is attractive but, any benefit change that has the unwavering support of Iain Duncan Smith, needs careful scrutiny; something we failed to do. The signs of major problems were there even before the ‘pilot’ schemes (management problems, IT blunders design faults, etc., etc). It was a ‘flagship policy’ of the coalition and, like the ‘Titanic’, full steam ahead was the only order.

    It’s negative impact was obvious from day one. David Raw knows better than most that use of ‘food banks’ increase dramatically when universal credit is introduced into the local area.

    As for, “Many people survive more than adequately on benefits and/or low incomes some struggle”; it is the ‘strugglers’ who need the most help. Universal Credit singularly fails to pass that test.

  • @expats

    “Michael, My post wasn’t intended as an attack on you, just the concept,”

    Well you quoted me! People will have their own view on the concept. But it was a concept with broad support across the political spectrum – left, centre and right. Rachel Reeves for Labour in 2014 only proposed a tinkering with it which would have been helpful but fairly minor.

    On implementation

    There was very, very little implementation prior to 2015. A very small number areas and then “complex” cases were excluded. There was transitional protection. And you could move onto UC in certain areas on a voluntary basis if you were better off on UC. It means that whatever was causing people to go to food banks prior to 2015 only a small amount was due to UC. And of course after 2015 billions were taken out by Osborne. I think in retrospect we were too tough on benefits in general as has been discussed ad infinitum on LDV but it was a time of not much money and I am a bleeding heart liberal anyway!

  • 2/2

    On IT

    I am definitely not a fan of IDS. But he and the coalition did see the UC implementation go slowly rather than as a “big bang” that had happened with other government systems.

    I appreciate that IT screw-ups by other Governments do not exonerate the Lib Dems or the coalition. But if you want to talk about IT screw-ups that affected the low paid then Gordon Brown’s tax credit system takes the biscuit. I was a caseworker for an MP at the time. And we must have had hundreds come in with sudden demands from the HMRC for £2,000, £3,000, £4,000 even £5,000+. And very distressed – people who had always been prudent and never gone into debt – and were sometimes in floods of tears.

    It normally took at least two letters from us for the HMRC to admit they were wrong when I could often see they were from the start and sometimes 3 or even 4 letters. I had a 1400 page guide from Child Poverty Action Group with several long chapters on tax credits. A particularly insidious get out clause was that Brown and HMRC said that people should have done their own calculations and known they were being overpaid – calculations that the HMRC couldn’t even do! I would say that there MIGHT have been ONE person who understood tax credits and that was Brown but I am not sure even he did! Of course many didn’t go to their MP or the CAB etc. and would have suffered repaying the HMRC demands.

    Having said that I did support the CONCEPT of tax credits – just a poor implementation – probably worse than UC.

    And of course under Labour it wasn’t just tax credits but the NHS national computer system, Home Office IT system not “fit for purpose” etc. etc. It may not exonerate us but it does put us in good company with other parties!

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