Iain Duncan Smith hides in Plymouth on next leg of misleaders roadshow

Tue, 24/02/2015 - 13:21 -- nick

News comes to us from the west country, where Iain Duncan Smith has been talking to The Plymouth Herald about his failed welfare reforms.

Smith, along with most of the government, appears to be taking what must be hoped to be his last few months in office off to campaign in advance of the May general election.

As we might expect from this man, he is using his roadtrip to promote a positive view of his own record that simply does not stand up to scrutiny.

Universal Credit is his big idea, and the move to monthly payments a difficult change for those used to getting their money every fortnight.

A Labour councillor on Plymouth city council, Chris Penberthy, raised a question on whether this would lead to more people getting into debt as they struggled to budget across this longer period.

It was estimated last year by the Payments Council that an extra 2.7 million people would not be able to cope with receiving a monthly income and would find themselves in debt as a result.

This was flatly denied by Smith, who 'dismissed' this idea despite the evidence, and went on to betray both contempt for unemployed people and a lack of understanding of the challenges they face by saying:

“Most jobs pay monthly, so if you can’t cope with monthly money management, you won’t last long in a job."

At the most basic level this is true, but those in work can more easily get overdrafts and have the kind of incomes that usually cover their expenses, not the case with most unemployed people for whom 'budgeting' means sometimes missing meals or going cold.

Universal Credit has been a white elephant from the outset, seeing huge amounts of money written off, endless delays and setbacks leading to deadline extensions, and cover-ups from within Smith's department.

It still has fewer than 30,000 users, another new final deadline in 2018, and cannot deal with any complex cases, but Smith apparently told the Herald that its problems had been "sorted out", a breathtaking whitewashing of the terrible truth.

On the issue of zero hours contracts, which can stop employees earning enough to live on and confuse the unemployment count - if someone has a job contract but works no hours are they actually unemployed? - Smith claimed his government was cracking down on companies "abusing" the system, a revelation that will come as a susprise to those who have seen consultation but no action.

Perhaps Iain Duncan Smith thought that by hiding out of the glare of national media he could say whatever he wanted and nobody would scrutinise it.

What he reveals by his glossing over of the inconvenient truth is how little regard he has for either the facts of his record or the unemployed people his office is designed to serve.