Rachel Reeves. Photo: Getty
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Rachel Reeves: Labour will "pause" Universal Credit if we win power

The shadow work and pensions minister says that Labour would not "throw good money after bad" on the troubled benefit.

Rachel Reeves says that Labour will reassess its commitment to Univeral Credit if it wins the next election.

She told the Sunday Times that the party will pause the project for three months, and call in the National Audit Office for a "warts and all" appraisal. 

"We’re not going to go in with a preconceived notion that we are going to proceed at any cost, which seems to be Iain Duncan Smith’s approach,” she added.
“This is his baby and he’s not going to abandon it, however bad things get.”

The scale and ambition of Universal Credit, which aims to roll together six working-age benefits, has always raised eyebrows across Whitehall. The project has been negatively assessed by the Major Projects Authority - under the aegis of Francis Maude at the Cabinet Office - and the Public Accounts Committee, led by Labour MP Margaret Hodge. There are tensions both between work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and his department's permanent secretary, Robert Devereux, and between the department and George Osborne's Treasury over the failures of the scheme. 

Hodge told the New Statesman in April: "The DWP seems to have embarked on this crucial project, expected to cost the taxpayer some £2.4 billion, with little idea as to how it was actually going to work.

“Confusion and poor management at the highest levels have already resulted in delays and at least £34m wasted on developing IT. If the department doesn’t get its act together, we could be on course for yet another catastrophic government IT failure.”


Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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The NS Podcast #176: Younge, guns and identity politics

The New Statesman podcast.

Helen and Stephen are joined by author and editor-at-large for the Guardian, Gary Younge, to discuss the findings of his new book: Another Day in the Death of America.

Seven kids die every day from gun violence in the US yet very few make the national news. Is there any way to stop Americans becoming inured to the bloodshed? The enraging, incredibly sad and sometimes peculiarly funny stories of ten kids on one unremarkable Saturday attempt to change that trend.

(Helen Lewis, Stephen Bush, Gary Younge).

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