Welfare reform ‘will cost taxpayer £1.4bn’
By Adam Bienkov
The government's flagship welfare schemes are in "chaos" and set to cost taxpayers £1.4 billion Labour said today.
Speaking at an event in London, shadow work and pension secretary Liam Byrne argued that many of the government's planned welfare cuts will cost more than they save.
"Nobody wants to see a department that can't get the basics right – but that doesn't mean we can run away from the problem," he said.
"And there is no escaping the fact the government's failure will end up costing the taxpayer a staggering £1.4 billion by the end of this parliament."
He said that while Labour supports Iain Duncan Smith's universal credit scheme "in principle" the implementation had become a "joke".
“There is now a private joke in Whitehall. To err is human. But to really foul things up you need Iain Duncan Smith. It is beginning to feel like every single major reform is in crisis," he said.
Earlier this year the Major Projects Authority found that the survival of nine major projects at the Department of Work and Pensions was in doubt.
Addressing Iain Duncan Smith's universal credit scheme, it said: "Successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible."
Byrne today offered cross party talks to try and fix the scheme.
"Universal Credit is a good idea in principle but the implementation is a disaster," he said.
“If Iain Duncan Smith won’t save Universal Credit, then Labour will have to prepare to clean up his mess.”
Byrne claimed that a whole series of Duncan Smith's welfare schemes were running over budget.
He said the government's youth contract scheme, which provides apprenticeships and work experience for unemployed young people, will cost taxpayers an extra £457m in 2014-15.
However, the DWP said today that Byrne had miscalulated and that the true figure was much lower.
Byrne also promised that a Labour government would "bring social security spending under control."
Asked by Politics.co.uk whether this meant that Labour would cut overall welfare budgets beyond the government's plans he replied that: "Structural social security budgets are falling and that is the baseline we will inherit".
He then added "It's also got to be a debate about how you bring down cyclical spending too".
Byrne singled out child-related benefits for foreign workers as something that Labour would seek to cut, explaining that "we just don't think it's fair that someone could move to London and leave their children in Paris or Prague, claim for family benefits and then send them home".
A spokesperson for Iain Duncan Smith today said that Byrnes's figures were "nonsense" and accused him of a "last-ditch attempt to keep his job in the shadow cabinet" following rumours that he is to be lose his job in a forthcoming reshuffle.
They added: "Labour is panicking – after a summer of discontent, here is yet another disastrous speech, void of any ideas."