Treasury has not signed off on universal credit, MPs told

6 July 2014

The Treasury has still not signed off on the government’s troubled universal credit benefits reform, Sir Bob Kerslake, the head of the civil service, has revealed. He made the admission that the project was being drip-fed money by the Treasury after Margaret Hodge, the chair of the Commons public accounts committee, repeatedly pressed senior civil servants about its financial status.

It the latest sign that the Treasury is keeping a very close eye on universal credit, the responsibility of work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, after it was criticised by the National Audit Office for its “weak management, ineffective control and poor governance”.
After write-downs and IT problems, the plan to merge six benefit payments into one had to be completely “reset” and will be introduced much more slowly than originally planned.

Esther McVey, the Minister for Employment, has previously claimed the “strategic outline business case” for universal credit has been approved until the end of this parliament.

However, in a parliamentary hearing, Kerslake acknowledged: “We shouldn’t beat about the bush: it hasn’t been signed off. What we’ve had is a set of conditional reassurances about progress and the Treasury have released money accordingly. That is one of the key controls.”