Labour councillors rip into Welwyn Hatfield MP Shapps over Universal Credit
PUBLISHED: 16:31 23 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:55 23 October 2017
Welwyn Hatfield's Labour group has warned that the Universal Credit scheme will cripple hundreds of vulnerable people if its roll-out is not postponed.
The welfare initiative – designed to replace six means-tested benefits – has gradually been introduced at job centres nationwide, with a further expansion set to continue into next year.
While many agree with streamlining benefits in principle, the scheme currently involves new claimants having to wait around six weeks before getting their first payment.
Labour members claimed it pushes society’s most financially vulnerable into arrears, and urged the Government to postpone the expansion until its pay delay is resolved.
However, almost all Tory MPs – including Welwyn Hatfield’s Grant Shapps – followed the party line last week and abstained from voting on a Labour motion to do so.
Labour councillor for Howlands, Max Holloway, said: “If Grant supports the roll-out of Universal Credit, you’d expect him to vote for it, not fail to turn up to work.
“Most residents don’t enjoy the financial security Mr Shapps does. I couldn’t get by without pay for six weeks, could you?”
Universal Credit is currently scheduled to be introduced in Welwyn Hatfield from December 6 this year, which opposition councillors claimed would leave hundreds facing Christmas without financial support.
Labour leader Kieran Thorpe added: “It’s clear that when Grant Shapps puts newsletters through people’s doors saying he’ll ‘make sure everyone in Welwyn Hatfield is represented’, the reality is he just doesn’t care about the hardships being imposed on hundreds in Welwyn Hatfield.”
Former Tory chairman Mr Shapps responded by blasting the local Labour Party’s “increasingly shrill and personal” criticism, adding his party’s successful welfare reform is reflected in unemployment dropping 50 per cent since 2010.
He added: “I want to see any problems with the Universal Credit roll-out resolved and quashed ahead of its introduction here in Welwyn Hatfield, but what hardworking residents also want to see is a system that is fair on everyone.
“Work should always pay and when you work more hours, you shouldn’t be penalised by an unfair benefit system which takes away more of what you are earning.
“Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Labour locally welcoming the fact that unemployment is at record lows in Welwyn Hatfield.
“Nor do they dare remind voters that every single Labour government in history has left more people on the dole.”