One of the biggest problems of a centralised state is that it thinks its big ideas, once conceived, must be pressed on with, regardless of the evidence they are not working.
Universal credit is a good idea when conceived in a Whitehall bunker but its roll out has been so woeful, its failure to take into account external factors such as benefit reductions so predictable ... and yet the government presses on like a Soviet era tractor production plan. Needless to say, the local state has to pick up the tab and deal with real people and real problems, not numbers on spreadsheets.
Universal credit is perhaps a metaphor for austerity era policies. There were undoubtedly issues to address post the crash but expecting local government to pick up most of the tab has proven ultimately a flawed policy which has contributed greatly to the huge social divides that have been so transparent since the referendum.
The Budget is a chance to to start, doubtlessly cautiously, to reverse the dead hand of the centralised state and repatriate powers and funding opportunities. The consequences of ploughing on, like Boxer in Animal Farm, will not heal the current divisions so visible in the Brexit debate.
The introduction of universal credit has effectively pushed administration costs on to local government and has not been met with sufficient central funding to match, according to a new report by an influential parliamentary committee. The public accounts committee found councils are “facing additional costs” which the Department for Work & Pensions “does not cover, and [local authorities] have been forced to cover the costs of their local area moving to universal credit”. Evidence from Newcastle City Council, one of the roll-out trial areas, showed a doubling of rent arrears from £1m to £2m in 2017-18 following the introduction of universal credit and reportedly paid an additional £0.75m to support the scheme’s roll-out