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MP Field backs controversial rollout of universal credit

Labour opponent warns reforms are bringing 'next phase of austerity'

19 October, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Mr Field on a ministerial visit to Malaysia 

MARK Field has dismissed calls to scrap the universal credit system after further delays were announced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster said axing the government’s scheme now would create confusion and leave people trapped in unemployment, adding the reforms have been supported “across the political divide”.

Mr Field’s support for the controversial system has been slammed by his Labour opponent for the Cities of London and Westminster constituency, Rev Stephen Saxby, who has warned that the poor will be hardest hit.

Mr Field said: “Universal credit combines six major benefits into one simple payment, with entitlement withdrawn gradually as claimants earn more of their own money.

“That is a much better way of making sure money goes to those who need it most, and that people always have an incentive to work. Indeed this move has rightly been supported from across the political divide. Scrapping or pausing universal credit and returning to a costly legacy system would continue the confusion for claimants, trapping people out of work, and would be unaffordable for taxpayers.”

He said he had, with Karen Buck, the Labour MP for Westminster North, attended several meetings over the past 18 months aimed at ensuring any “teething problems” were “flagged and rectified”.

The system, which merges six benefits into a single payment, has the potential to be catastrophic for people on benefits, according to charities, who have warned it will lead to rising food bank use, rent arrears and homelessness.

Under fire, the DWP has this week announced further delays to the rollout of the system.

Mr Saxby said Mr Field’s majority was less than the number of his constituents who would be affected by the changes – a 3,148 majority, compared with 6,532 households.

He said: “Across London, the Tories have already hit more than 33,000 young people with cruel universal credit sanctions. This is the next phase of austerity, part of the 75 per cent of post-2015 social security cuts that are still to come.

“This failed government programme is going to leave the poorest families, including half of single parents, £200-a- month worse off.

“Labour will stop the roll-out of universal credit, and deliver a more comprehensive system in which nobody will be worse off.”

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