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Could you get by without 6 weeks pay? That was the question we put to Conservative MP Grant Shapps back in October when we asked him to support our calls to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit in Welwyn Hatfield, following Shapps abstaining on Labour’s motion to do just that. Instead Shapps chose to play down the impact this would have on residents, and resulted to name calling Labour Councillors as ‘shrill’.  You can read more about that here.

More recently it’s come to light that over half of Universal Credit Claimants are struggling to feed themselves and their families – and this isn’t just those who’ve been hit with late or no payments. A report released by the Trussell Trust highlights that in areas were the benefits have been rolled out, there’s been an unprecedented rise in the demand for food banks. And this is STILL happening, across the country and right here in Welwyn Hatfield.

Last month, a highly critical report from the National Audit Office concluded that the new system ‘has not delivered value for money’ and it is ‘uncertain that it ever will’.

And more recently, in a landmark High Court ruling, the scheme was declared as unlawfully discriminating against disabled claimants.

We know for a fact that this has impacted neighbours, friends, and colleagues here in Welwyn Hatfield. Yet the Conservative Council refuses to do anything – even write a letter to the Government asking them to pause the roll out of this harmful, costly and illogical ‘reform’ to the benefits system that is simply an attack on the poorest in our society.

It doesn’t make work pay, it’s not saving the Country lots of money, just like the Conservative Government, its doing real damage to the people of this Country.

Despite the Tories claiming otherwise, a whistle-blower has revealed that “it was more about getting the person off the phone, not helping” – a statement that should fill the Conservative members of the Council with shame that they were unable to do something as simple as write a letter on behalf of the suffering residents in Welwyn Hatfield.

In a Full Council Meeting on 9th July 2018, the Labour Group put forward a motion, asking the Council to write to, and ask the Secretary for Work and Pensions to pause the roll out of Universal Credit in Welwyn Hatfield because of the negative impact this was having on residents. Here’s the text of that motion:

This Council notes that following the introduction of universal credit to Welwyn Hatfield, we have residents that have seen payments delayed and as a consequence struggle to get by.

According to the National Audit Office, the cost of implementing and administrating Universal Credit is ballooning, while judges have declared the scheme unlawfully discriminative against the disabled.

This Council supports calls to pause the rollout of Universal Credit in Welwyn Hatfield, and resolves to write to the secretary of state for work and pensions expressing that will.

The Conservative controlled Council refused to do this – despite all Labour Councillors voting in favour of the motion.

In light of the recent whistle-blower activity revealed in today’s Guardian, that highlights that computer Mistakes and delays can add on average an extra three weeks to the formal 35-day wait for an initial benefit payment, it’s not too late to write that letter – heck, you can even email it for all we care. But it’s time to do the decent thing.

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