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LGC view: Welfare cuts put further pressure on precarious universal credit project

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The roll-out and implementation of universal credit has been far from straightforward and not without controversy.

But just when things seemed as if they were starting to settle down, chancellor George Osborne confirmed in his July Budget the Conservative party manifesto pledge to find £12bn savings from welfare.

The fact he slowed the pace of some cuts was widely welcomed but the impact will still be hard felt.

Not only by claimants but councils too.

Merging six benefits into one single monthly universal credit payment has already resulted in councils having to deal with more complex caseloads.

Changing the rules once again on who is entitled to benefits as a result of the cuts will only increase that workload, and the costs associated with dealing with it.

A lot of the hard lessons associated with the roll-out of universal credit have been learned in a relatively contained environment to date.

But the national roll-out is now in full flow and universal credit is due to go ‘live’ in every area by April 2016.

The time frame in which councils will have to get to grips with their role in implementing and delivering universal credit will be far shorter than those afforded to pathfinde sites in the north-west.

Adding the impact of £12bn welfare cuts on top of that, and the potential problems they will bring, not to mention further funding cuts to local government, only serves to add greater uncertainty to this already precarious project.

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