WORK and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith told a committee of MPs yesterday that there is no “debacle” in the universal credit system.
The comments came after Duncan Smith faced criticism over delays and extra costs related to the new benefit system. He told the BBC’s Today programme last week that the rollout was on schedule and on budget, but admitted: “We never really wanted to dwell on figures because they move and change but I do accept, of course, that this plan is different from the original plan.”
The minister was put on the spot by MPs on the work and pensions select committee yesterday after it emerged in a letter, written before his appearance, that the department had already written off £40.1m in IT costs and will write down a further £91m over the next five years. The £40.1m is a result of code which was written for the project which can no longer be used. The total cost is £425m so far.
Duncan Smith was also quizzed by committee members over his department’s use of statistics, and delays that mean some complex claimants won’t be using the system until 2017.
Howard Shiplee, universal credit director general, said that the programme would be rolled out slowly. “There’s no question of a big bang approach to this,” he added.
Duncan Smith told MPs to stop “moaning” at one point during the committee, after he was accused of statistical inaccuracies in press releases.