back to article Universal Credit slammed by MPs: Late programme branded 'unacceptable'

MPs have highlighted "new concerns" over the glacially slow Universal Credit programme, concluding in a report that the programme "still has a long way to go." Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said today: “The lack of transparency surrounding a programme with such wide-reaching implications for so many …

  1. Warm Braw Silver badge

    "Completely unacceptable"

    And beyond "remaining disappointed" what's going to happen?

    If nothing, that sounds pretty much like it's been accepted.

    1. Halfmad

      Re: "Completely unacceptable"

      Yes but that's not what they SAID therefor they accept no responsibility for it.

  2. Jedit

    They complain because it's late?

    They should try being on Universal Credit. The IFS just announced that it will make people poorer than they are under the existing system.

    (Before anyone goes off on one about encouraging people to find work: many people who will be on UC are already working.)

    1. theoutrider

      Re: They complain because it's late?

      Or, in the case of people who've been transferred from ESA, are proven unable to work for medical reasons with no clear indication of when they're going to get better.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keep the good bit and drop the rest. Call it a win.

    The good bit, obviously, being the bit that lets you earn more in a part time job. The rest is deckchair moving.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Not surprised

    A colleague at one of my clients who did a fair amount of work for the DWP described their staff quite succinctly: "Not the sharpest knives in the box".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not surprised

      As somebody who knows the project and has sat in with IDS in meetings, describing them as knifes is pushing it a bit. They aren't even the sharpest spoons in the box.

      I cannot put the words down that describes IDS. Well I can but I won't. What surprised me was how much is he utterly, utterly loathed, despised and hated by most of the DWP team. We thought we hated him, his 'staff' hate him even worse.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: Not surprised

        Comments like this are why I read El Reg. Thanks.

      2. KeithR

        Re: Not surprised

        "What surprised me was how much is he utterly, utterly loathed, despised and hated by most of the DWP team. We thought we hated him, his 'staff' hate him even worse."

        They're not so stupid after all then. are they?

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Not surprised

        "They aren't even the sharpest spoons in the box."

        My view was formed nearly 50 years ago when the company I'd joined a few months earlier went bust (I don't think there was a causal connection) and I was out of work. One of the staff in the local employment exchange tried to argue that because I was unable to sign on on the appropriate day I wasn't entitled to that week's dole as I was unavailable for work.

        The reason I couldn't sign on in his office was because I had a job interview at the other end of the country.

        It took a little explaining before he realised that he couldn't sustain an argument that being interviewed for a job was inconsistent with being unavailable for work.

        I didn't get that job which was just as well; I ended up with a research assistantship in the field I'd always wanted which in turn lead to meeting the research student who became SWMBO and also learning about these big boxes which ate punched cards.

    2. KeithR

      Re: Not surprised

      "A colleague at one of my clients who did a fair amount of work for the DWP described their staff quite succinctly: "Not the sharpest knives in the box""

      We tend to lower our standards to match whatever clueless private sector muppet we've had forced on us this week...

  5. Red Bren


    IDS should have his pay stopped every time it's late.

    If you really want to get it done, use it to administrate MPs' wages, allowances and pensions.

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: Sanctions

      Red that's a great idea, they insist 60 quid a week is enough to live off when complaining they do not get a large enough meal allowance of a third of that a day, they say it will cause no disruption moving to UC, when they make sure their pockets are lined.

      About time they were made to put their money where their mouth is.

    2. TheSkunkyMonk

      Re: Sanctions

      imagine the over payments though! I really don't understand what is so hard about devoloping the system though at its heart it is just a big database a few forms and a link to the bacs system, spend a bit on hardware fair enough but on the software dev side man what the hell is wrong with these peeps.

  6. John H Woods

    Squaring the circle

    They are trying to formalise a logically inconsistent ever worsening complex mess. They should have spent the time and money on rationalising the taxation and benefit system, not trying to build a system to automate the impossible.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Squaring the circle

      @ John H Woods

      Good comment. I think the UC idea is a good one, its the tax/welfare system that is a problem. How can they automate the confusing tangled mess made up of disjointed decisions? Stripping out the overheads and providing a faster and simpler process is surely good for everyone involved (taxpayer, claimant, government). But I dont see how it is possible without stripping the welfare/tax system to something manageable and consistent.

    2. Duffy Moon

      Re: Squaring the circle

      Yes. A Universal Basic Income would totally eliminate the complexity and make it far easier for people to work part-time. I can't see the Tories wanting to implement such a fair system though. They'd prefer the stick to the carrot.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Squaring the circle

        I am not convinced by the argument for a basic universal income. I can understand why some people argue for it and administratively it would be simpler to just give people a baseline of income regardless of their situation. Personally I would expect prices to rise to account for the new baseline making people richer in relative terms but absolutely no better off. Of course there cannot be zero cost to processing this so the project would cost the tax payer to have money taken to have money returned (minus the admin fees) which makes the country on the whole poorer (money removed from the economy). This would only be justifiable if the cost is less than only giving money to those who need it.

        Of course with government comes abuse (from good intentions or voter bribes) and a forever rising basic income without actual growth to support it would cripple the country in a similar way to (previous) labours spending spree leaving us skint and with huge liabilities when a recession hits. With a restrained gov it might work.

        The good news is this is being attempted elsewhere in the world so we can see how well the experiment goes and decide if we want to try it when the results are in.

        I do hate the wording of a 'fair' system though. Using the term fair I can argue to give more to the needy or to steal less from the earners. Fair means less than nothing when looking at these problems.

        1. Duffy Moon

          Re: Squaring the circle

          I suppose prices could rise, but that's just theory of course.

          Yes, it will be interesting to see if it works elsewhere.

          Having money taken away only to have it returned (in some form or another) is pretty much a definition of tax, isn't it?

          I'll change "fair" to "fairer". Anyone who has spent more than a few months unemployed recently (with all the sanctions and Mandatory Work Programmes) and been unable to find full-time work will appreciate the advantages of a Universal Basic Income system.

  7. David Roberts Silver badge

    How often do the rules change?

    This may or may not be a simple question. I would expect at least one revision per year (Budget) however there may be more frequent political tinkering.

    Simple case - if the rules are updated twice a year and it takes an extra 6 months to include each set of changed rules then the project is never going to finish.

    In a commercial project this would be handled by ever harsher change control and an insistence on delivering to the agreed specification and being paid before the next set of changes were implemented.

    However if the Government has just changed all the rules yet again and delivering payments as per last year's spec will just lead to mis-payments and misery then how do you handle change control?

    Agile DevOps in this case involves meat sacks and paper.

    1. Lyndon Hills 1

      Re: How often do the rules change?

      Well the current negotiations with the EC have huge potential to change them again, viz child benefit for children overseas payable at the going local rate, and no benefits until 4 years (or maybe 18 months and varying thereafter up to 4 years).

  8. Aquilus

    Try something different

    Good. The more of a clusterfuck it becomes, the more billions pissed away on Yet Another Government IT Disaster, the greater the argument for a basic income.

  9. Alister Silver badge

    The report urged the department to publish "a clear explanation of how the Universal Credit business case has changed since it last reported on the programme, including the effects of the Autumn Statement and transitional protection".

    Please explain clearly, with diagrams, how far the goalposts have moved since the initial proposal.

    All dimensions in millimetres, please show all workings.

  10. 2460 Something

    Of course there isn't any transparency. They don't actually want you to see all the 'consultancy' expenses receipts from the local strip club!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Might be a bit wide of the mark but as the rules for new claims for UC change in April 2017 so that you only get benefits for the first two children and the first is not at the higher rate as was the case previously then delaying getting people on to UC would actually benefit the government in monetary terms.

    It's also nice to see that Corbyn for all his "for the people" socialist commentary with regards to tax credits the sames cuts are still going to happen. I don't for one minute believe he was unaware of this.

    These changes don't make a difference to me but I can't help but think democracy is a bit of a sham.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      re: I can't help but think democracy is a bit of a sham

      Only a bit of a sham?

      Every five years we get to choose between a couple of no-hopers, or prats with the same ideas trying hide their likeness behind a different coloured tie.

      And then a party that doesn't get the majority of the votes cast can still somehow win (36.9% is not the majority of voters however you try to spin it). First past the post is the worst possible way to call it.

      Yay "democracy".

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      It's also nice to see that Corbyn for all his "for the people" socialist commentary with regards to tax credits the sames cuts are still going to happen. I don't for one minute believe he was unaware of this.

      You appear to be labouring under the misapprehension that the leader of the party in opposition has any actual input into the policies of the party in government (beyond the use of his one vote in the Commons on motions that require a vote).

      It would be folly indeed for Mr Corbyn to make any policies or statements of a firm financial nature about what he might do in four years time, if he were to get into power, given that the current lot of thieving so-and-sos in power are likely to have asset-stripped the country down to the bare bones (selling those assets to their mates) in that time, and there is no way of knowing exactly what they will be stealing form the tax payer between now and then.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I agree, Mr Corbyn doesn't make policies or statements of a firm financial nature however his questioning on tax credits led the press to question the policy which in turn led the government to change it. Unless of course it's all pre-planned and bullshit.

        My query is why has UC not been questioned when it is the exact same thing.

        Also yes democracy isn't a bit of a sham it a complete and utter joke at our expense.

  12. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    "It also urged the government to minimise any delays, as it estimated in 2014 that every six-month delay reduces the programme’s benefits by £2.3bn."

    Which begs the question; at what point does it go from 'reducing benefits' by £x to 'increasing costs' by £x - in other words, where is the threshold (still in the future, hopefully) at which the whole shambles is so late that it costs more than it supposedly saves.

    This is important, as it is the point at which IDS has to admit that his evil money-grubbing steal-from-the-poor-and-give-to-the-rich scheme can no longer be justified in terms of theoretical savings to the tax payer.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    So was the DWP what it knows from the Committee

    Or does it in fact have no idea how much overdue and/or over budget it's going to be?

    BTW Due to the nature of government (Budget, Statutory Instruments etc) any government specific system should have flexibility built into it from day 1 because in government things always change.

    IE scheduling rules in files, not hard coded into the software.

  14. Comfy Chairs

    £15.8 billion spent to date

    And that may not include the hundred-million pound write-offs where they've scrapped the system and gone back to square one. For an estimated £2.7b a year saving. Over 3 years they've spent £15.7b in order to save £8.1b.

    So £7.6 billion down the drain, but at least now we have a single integrated system that meets the needs of a modern welfare state, just as they promised we'd have when UC went live across the nation when it went live in October 2013. Oh,'s now 2016 and the system still can't cope with anything more than the simplest-case scenarios and still hasn't been rolled out nationwide.

    Godspeed IDS. You've burned through almost £16 billion of taxpayers' money with absolutely nothing to show for it, but insist that your new UC scheme will revolutionise welfare and will stop all those filthy working single parents claiming benefits they may be entitled to.

    The man could singlehandedly bankrupt the most profitable of companies through his utter ineptness. Rough calculation, the UC scheme has cost about £14.4 million a day since its inception with nothing to show. And the man who thinks this is value for money has the cheek to tell single working parents they should work extra hours each week to make up for the money he's taking away from them.

  15. BurnT'offering

    Universal Credit

    The poor being made poorer to pay for the system that's making them poorer. Would you effin' credit it?

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