Two councillors from South East Northumberland have highlighted concerns they say their residents will face as the government rolls out its controversial Universal Credit social security programme with Cowpen ward identified as a ‘pilot area’. They say that the government attempt to cut funding and confused targeting will create massive delays.
Councillor for Cowpen Ward Susan Davey and Cramlington Eastfield Councillor Laura Pidcock have joined forces to highlight their concerns as the government tries to implement the social security programme which is aimed at cutting the welfare bill.
Councillor Susan Davey who has the highest number of benefit claimants in Northumberland residing in her ward said:
"I've been dreading the day that people from my ward will have to face this change. Currently DWP have not placed the correct infrastructure at the Councils disposal and a backlog will form immediately. The Government have trialled this system over the last two years and still haven't seen the light when it comes to a soft landing for residents on Groundhog Day.
It’s a good job the Council are rolling out their market towns plan and I hope it happens as quickly as possible, as otherwise people will be stuck with a travel to County Hall in faraway Morpeth to resolve benefit issues as DWP pulls out its staff."
Councillor Laura Pidcock said
“I’m very concerned that the whole target of this programme is to cut the welfare bill at the expense of some of the most vulnerable people in society and the government’s approach is showing this concern to be true. It’s a reform founded in sand and is already costing tax payers more while causing great problems for people who are faced with the transition to the programme.”.
“It’s my view that the policy is based on a lie – that the social security system is populated by people who don’t want to work and who are happy to live on subsistence. That’s not my experience”.
Since the programme was announced 5 years ago by Ian Duncan Smith in the White Paper “Welfare that Works”, the roll out has been beset with massive problems. Smith has wasted £34 million on failed IT systems, spent £450 million on companies getting people into jobs that don’t exist, and even now the introduction of the new benefit is only for new single people who are coming into the benefit system. So it’s only a small group of new claimant who will be effected.
Universal Credit will replace 6 existing benefits. It will be paid monthly, two weeks in arrears. It is supposed to make the benefits system understandable, fair and aims to replicate working with being on benefits.
Claimants will have to show, with evidence, that they are seeking work 37 hours a week. If they cannot prove it they will be sanctioned. Sanctions can be imposed from between one week and three years!! People who have mental health problems, people who are sick and incapable have been known to have been sanctioned because they could not prove they are seeking work on a daily basis.
Northumberland’s own Housing Company Homes for Northumberland has predicted that there are going to be massive rent arrears as Universal Credit becomes the norm and the Council predicts massive Council Tax arrears.
The councillors are accusing the government of trying to roll out the programme ‘on the cheap’ and they say the government is setting it up to fail by pursuing an ‘ideological mission to destroy the British social security system that was largely introduced after the second world war.
Citizens Advice Bureau can provide advice and support to anyone who needs information about Universal Credit. They can be found at
Northumbrian CAB (Blyth office)
Eric Tolhurst Centre, 3-13 Quay Road, Blyth, Northumberland, NE24 2AS.
The Northumberland Adviceline is open Monday - Friday 10am to 4pm - Tel: 03444 111 444
Service Delivery Times
Drop-in sessions: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 10am-2pm