Yesterday in the den of dishonesty and inequity which serves us the British seat of democracy a Tory Minister almost caused the roof to cave in. Against all the guidelines and memos on Ministerial behaviour from the Civil Service high heid yins Amber Rudd in Parliament was forced to utter words of truth in response to consistent questioning and pressure from opposition MP’s to admit that the disastrous Universal Credit scheme has caused massive increases in the use of food banks among the victims of the Universal Credit rollout.
After a year of deceitful and dishonest denials from previous Ministers the recently appointed Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, admitted what everyone with half a brain cell already knew. The Universal Credit scheme is a shambolic project that leaves the poorest and most vulnerable with no money to live on for up to five weeks and forces them to seek food to survive from food banks
Well she didn’t actually admit that the scheme to roll six key benefits into one Universal Credit benefit was shambolic, massively expensive and utterly unjustified but she should have done. She should have announced it was a big mistake and halted the roll out as the first step toward scrapping it.
In every area where it has been piloted increased hardship, food bank reliance, rent arrears and despair has followed. In reality the smug and conceited mastermind of this disaster, former Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, should be arrested, charged with wilful deceit of the public and ordered to pay back the billions he has cost the taxpayer with his fanciful lies and distortions of reality.
To help raise some of the billions lost his incarceration inside the Tower of London should be interrupted daily for him to be attached with chains to a stockade in Parliament Green and the public charged a £1 to throw rotten fruit at his dislikeable orifice from a distance of no more than 20 yards. That should at least raise a couple of billion pounds.
Smith was in charge of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in 2012 when they estimated the administration costs of rolling out Universal Credit (UC) to be £2.2 billion. The ingenious idea was hatched from scheming and devious minds like Ian Duncan Smith who have never had to rely on social security benefits in their lives and don’t have a clue what life on poverty and low income actually means.
This absolute bam claimed he could easily live on £53 a week benefits until his £193 overnight hotel expenses claim charged to the public purse revealed £39 for his bloody breakfast alone. Some chance he could survive on £53 a week when he spends £39 on one breakfast. That would have left him with £14 for 6 days to live on. He is a rocket from a different universe to ordinary folk
The claim for the above hotel stay and breakfast was apparently rejected by the Parliamentary authorities but Smith was the man who ushered in the Tory Bedroom Tax which was an Exocet missile aimed at the poorest families in society. Disabled families on housing benefit were penalised for having to use additional bedrooms to have carers stay with them or store essential equipment while large families were penalised if they did not make children share bedrooms. Only those on housing benefit were subjected to the bedroom tax. The billionaires and millionaires with hundreds of spare bedrooms were exempt as was the family with the biggest benefits bill in Britain, the Windsor family.
From his department’s original £2.2 billion roll out estimate in 2012 the bill rose sharply to £12.8 billion in August 2014 and then eventually to £15.8 billion by 2017
Incredibly the National Audit Office now estimates that the cost of administering Universal Credit will be more than separately administering the six benefits it replaces (Employment & Support Allowance; Income based Job Seekers Allowance & Income Support; Housing Benefit; Working Tax Credit & Child Tax Credit). That claim is supported by the research organisation the Resolution Foundation
The implementation of Universal Credit was supposed to take place by 2017 but was subjected to seven rescheduling dates and is now apparently going to be in place across the UK by December 2023. This is a scheme which has caused severe hardship to those subjected to it, is at least six years behind schedule, costs £13.6 billion more to implement than originally predicted and will actually cost more to administer than the six benefits it replaces. If that does not constitute a disaster in political planning and social policy nothing ever will.
Iain Duncan Smith was forced to resign from the Department of Work and Pensions in 2016 after presiding over six years of cuts and chaos. Damian Green was appointed but then sacked amidst porn downloading accusations at the end of 2017. Amber Rudd took over in 2018 and was eventually forced to admit UC has caused significant increases in food bank use amongst those suffering the effects of it. According to the Trussell Trust, one of the biggest food bank organisations, it had to cope with a 13% increase in demand between April 2018 and September 2018 and delivered 658,048 emergency supplies of food to those referred to it by social work departments, doctor’s surgeries and other charitable organisations
The Trussell Trust operates over 1,300 food banks but another 650 are run by alternative charities and churches. UK incorporated, one of the richest economic entities on the planet, is home to well over 2,000 foodbanks delivering emergency food supplies to millions of the poorest families . Remember food banks are not part of the welfare state in Britain they are evidence writ large of the failure of the welfare state. Without charities, churches and volunteers providing emergency food supplies to millions of poor families and children malnutrition and hunger would be of epidemic proportions across supposedely ‘rich’ Britain.
Iain Duncan Smith tried and failed to hide the nasty and costly reality of UC from the public on three separate occasions. He was forced by court actions to release documents and information that exposed his UC scheme as an unmitigated disaster. The guy is treated by the pathetic media in this country as some kind of statesman and poverty expert. He is neither. He is a shyster and fraudster. He should be subjected to public ridicule and rebuke at every turn for the despair and suffering his Bedroom Tax and Universal Credit schemes have inflicted on the poorest and most vulnerable citizens across the UK.
For the billions of pounds overspent on his scheme he should be charged with criminal negligence and fraud. He has cost the public purse at least £13 billion and should be held to account for that.
He should also be named in a broader action against the Tory and Liberal Government Ministers since 2010 for manslaughter. Smith, Cameron, May, Clegg, Hunt, Osborne, Cable and others should be held responsible for the 120,000 excess deaths across the UK which their austerity cuts are responsible for. This collection of rich free market evangelists presided over an economic project which had nothing to do with addressing the economic mess caused by the irresponsible bankers in 2008 which crashed the economy but everything to do with punishing the poor for the greed and avarice of the rich.
Austerity wasn’t necessary or economically driven it was politically selected to defend the rich criminals from the crimes they had committed and deflect the pain onto the poor. 120,000 premature deaths was one of the costs and these politicians should be held to account for their criminal negligence.
The story of Amber Rudd’s rare utterance of truth dominated the news bulletins last night and occupies much space across the mainstream newspapers. What didn’t feature was the chilling Bloomberg Report under the heading:
“Austerity to Continue for Most U.K. Government Departments”
“These departments have already seen their allowances cut by 40 billion pounds since 2010, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said in a report ahead of Hammond’s Spring Statement on March 13 … An additional 5 billion pounds would be required to avoid any cut to real-terms per capita spending by 2023-24, according to the report. Maintaining spending on unprotected departments as a share of national income would need 11 billion pounds.”
So although the pantomime of Ministerial admissions that government policies are causing hundreds of thousands more citizens to rely on emergency food supplies from food banks to survive is newsworthy and the news about the slowdown in the UK economy is alarming behind the stage curtain the harsh economic reality of continuing and brutal austerity is hidden from view. More and massive cuts in services and welfare are on the way. No wonder the highest echelons of government and civil service are liaising with the police and armed forces to discuss the use of martial law on the back of Brexit and predicted civil unrest.
Universal Credit should be cancelled immediately. Austerity cuts should not only be cancelled but reversed through implementation of emergency taxes on profits and the earnings of the billionaires who have experienced astronomical increases in wealth during the austerity years, a £274 billion increase in the wealth of the richest 1,000 over the last 5 years and a £66 billion increase over the last year alone .
Iain Duncan Smith and the other chiefs who designed and implemented the welfare and service cuts should be criminally held to account for their crimes against society and the poor.
However here in Scotland we have a possible lifeboat to save us from the sinking HMS Britannia. Independence is our lifeboat. I implore the SNP led government to launch that lifeboat by using their democratic mandate for IndyRef2 as soon as possible and definitely within this calendar year.