Rachel's 'The Choice' on social security speech- Pudsey, Leeds 5th August 2014
I’d like to thank you for coming today. It has been great to spend time with you this morning.
And I’d also like to thank Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Pudsey, Jamie Hanley for helping to organise today’s event
As the next door MP I know how much Pudsey needs a Labour MP. Someone who puts you first, not the millionaires or the city bankers, but decent hardworking people trying to do the right thing for their families. People I came into politics to serve and I know that’s what motivates Jamie.
I want to talk to you today about the choice the British people face at the next election. And how it affects social security; one of the largest areas of public spending, and something that is vital to the lives of millions of people across the U.K.
And it’s a choice between;
An economy based on low paid and insecure jobs, with failing programmes and waste driving up social security spending under the Tories.
Or Labour’s long-term reforms to make work pay and get social security spending under control.
In 2010 the Tories promised a new approach to social security. But after four years their record is one of failure and waste.
David Cameron’s low wage economy has led to a huge increase in working people claiming benefits costing taxpayers billions
His government’s flagship welfare reforms from Universal Credit to Personal Independence Payments are in crisis
And the costs of failing Tory policies are mounting.
It’s now clear that the fall in wages under David Cameron is record-breaking. As Ed Balls said last week, we haven’t seen such a sustained decline in living standards since the 1870s.
I think that if someone goes out and works hard, leaving home early, often doing two or three jobs they deserve a fair deal.
The deal was that people work hard, play by the rules and do the right thing might have opportunities to buy a home, have some security and their kids would have opportunities that their parents didn’t.
But that deal seems to have been broken for too many people.
I want to restore that deal again.
And that fall in wages isn’t only felt in people’s pockets, but in the public finances. The Tories promised to get a grip on the social security budget.
But they overshot their own plans for spending on social security this Parliament by over £13 billion.
And their failure to tackle low pay, rising job insecurity, zero hour contracts and the cost-of-living crisis has meant millions of people are working harder for less. And as a result are relying on housing benefit and tax credits to stay afloat.
Today we’re publishing shocking new numbers which shows the cost of the Tories’ failure to build an economy which works for working people.
Analysis by the House of Commons library has found the number of working people claiming housing benefit is set to double between 2010 and 2018 costing a staggering £12.9 billion or £488 for every British household.
And it’s not just housing benefit costs that are rising for working people. The latest government figures show spending on Tax Credits for people in work is set to rise. Not by a few thousand pounds. Or even by a few million. Over the next Parliament the cost is set to rise by an astonishing £2.5 billion
The Tories seem to be content with a low wage, zero hours culture where people are working harder for less, adding billions to Britain’s benefits bill. Labour is not.
But the Tory record isn’t just one of spiralling social security costs. Since 2010 the government’s record has been characterised by crisis, chaos and waste.
And there’s no bigger crisis in the Department for Work and Pensions than the government’s £12.8 billion flagship Universal Credit programme which was supposed to merge six benefits into one.
Iain Duncan Smith promised a million people would be on Universal Credit by April 2014. But the latest figures show less than 6,000 people are claiming.
At the current rate of progress it will take 1222 years for Universal Credit to be rolled out across the country. That means Universal Credit will finally be rolled out in 3236.
There is little sign that Ministers have a grip (of Universal Credit). On 23rd June Iain Duncan Smith said in the House of Commons that, ‘there are, at the moment, around 11,000 people making those claims on universal credit.’ But three weeks later the Department for Work and Pensions published monthly claimant figures for Universal Credit which said 5,880 people were claiming the new benefit
And it’s not just the delays with Universal Credit, it’s the waste. The government have spent a staggering £100,000 for each person who is on Universal Credit. And they have wasted over £130million on IT.
Today I want to make a direct appeal to David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith. Labour wants Universal Credit to work. But we won’t accept more taxpayer’s money being written off and wasted.
In June I announced a Labour government would take steps to enable us to decide if Universal Credit can be saved and to ensure the programme delivers value for money by ordering a three-month pause for a thorough review of Universal Credit and calling in the National Audit Office.
But I don’t want to wait another nine months for this to happen. Universal Credit is in crisis and needs urgent action now. If the government acts on the proposals Labour made in June we will support them because it’s the right thing for the country.
But Universal Credit is just one of a series of flagship government programmes that are failing;
Look at what’s happened with the introduction of the new Personal Independence Payment. These are vital payments made to people who need our support – people affected by terminal illnesses, blindness, and other disabilities which we all know mean that they face extra costs in their day-to-day lives, often but not always unable to work.
But in February 2014 the National Audit Office said the chaotic rollout of Personal Independence Payment had led to the loss of £140 million to taxpayers. And the backlog of assessments has grown so much that it will take a staggering 42 years to clear at the current rate.
And what about the Work Programme? Tory ministers promised to ‘tackle endemic worklessness’. Once again the National Audit office has had to point out the failures that Tory ministers won’t admit. In a report last month they were clear that the Work Programme has underperformed, with more people returning to the Jobcentre than finding a job after two years on the programme.
The National Audit Office also found £11 million of Work Programme funding had already been wasted and a further £25 million is at risk. It’s clear that the Work Programme isn’t working.
And with every week that goes by we discover more examples of the DWP’s carelessness with public money. The latest is £27 million poured down the drain on a project called My Benefits Online.
18 months ago the DWP announced it was launching a website for people to check details about their benefits. But earlier this year the website was scrapped and the project join the long list of failed schemes which have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds.
So with Universal Credit in crisis, the Work Programme failing, a 100% rise in the number of working people claiming housing benefit and a huge backlog in Personal Independence Payment assessments threatening to land taxpayers with a £5 billion bill, it’s clear Tory policy after Tory policy is failing
So what would another five years of the Tories mean for Britain and our social security system?
More people stuck in low paid jobs relying on housing benefit and tax credits to make ends meet racking up a huge bill for taxpayers and a huge injustice to those who aren’t earning enough to live on.
More people stuck waiting in the backlog for Personal Independence Payment assessments
More taxpayer’s money wasted on failing projects like Universal Credit
Not to mention thousands of people hit by the cruel and unfair Bedroom Tax.
So the choice today is between a Tory economy that doesn’t work for working people and adds billions to the social security bill, and a Labour government that would take a different approach, to make work pay and to get a grip of the chaos and waste facing the DWP.
We believe it is only by getting more people into work and creating better paid and more secure jobs, that we'll tackle the drivers of rising benefits bills and ensure the system is sustainable for the long-term while ensuing dignity fo0r those with illness, disability or caring responsibilities who can’t work.
We’ll do that by;
- Raising the National Minimum Wage and to ensure it gets closer to average earnings in the next Parliament.
- Introducing Living Wage Contracts, so that firms which sign up to paying the Living Wage at the start of the Parliament will benefit from a 12 month tax rebate of up to £1,000 for every low paid worker who gets a pay rise,
- Tackling the root causes of rising housing benefits spending by making work pay and building 200,000 homes a year by 2020
- Getting young people and the long-term unemployed off benefits and into work through a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee
- Pausing the implementation of Universal Credit and calling in the National Audit Office to conduct a full review of whether the programme can be rescued
- Getting a grip of the Government’s chaotic implementation of the roll out of disability benefits by reforming the Work Capability Assessments and putting a limit on the time that people wait for Personal Independence Payment claims
- Bearing down on the culture of waste under the Tories which has cost taxpayers millions and will ensure taxpayers money is spent responsibly.
- And scrapping the cruel, costly and unfair Bedroom Tax that is sending people in Pudsey and across the country to food banks.
The social security system was created so that you paid in when in work and drew on support if you were out of work, ill or old.
And as Ed Miliband set out in June, we want to go further to make sure our system is based on what you have paid in over time, meaning that those who have lived and worked here for years get more than those who have only recently joined the workforce.
Rebuilding the ‘something for something’ principle that is at the heart of our welfare system, but that too many people feel has been eroded over time.
So we want to change Jobseeker’s Allowance so that someone who has been working for many years gets more help if they lose their job than someone who has been working for a short time or not at all.
A step on the route to creating a benefit system that is fair and decent, and rewards those who do the right thing.
And as I’ve said before, to make sure that the system is fair and seen to be fair we must clamp down on the scandal of child benefit being sent abroad. It’s not right that people are able to claim child benefits for children who don’t live in this country. The government should be negotiating now to bear down on this abuse of our system and to ensure people who come to the UK come to contribute and not just to claim benefits.
So next May there is a big choice for the British people on social security
Low wages, more failing programmes and rising social security costs under the Tories
Or a Labour future with reforms to make work pay and get social security spending under control.
That’s THE CHOICE facing the country.