Category: Austerity

The Looting of Ukraine Has Begun


Published on Mar 7, 2014

Let the world learn from this. The ukraine people got a reward for joining the EU,…That reward was a %50 cut in their pension and forced into an IMF Plan!……


Paul Craig Roberts

Institute for Political Economy

The Looting Of Ukraine Has Begun

Paul Craig Roberts
ukrainian woman
This supporter of the Ukraine joining the EU has received her reward: a 50% cut in her pension.

According to a report in Kommersant-Ukraine, the finance ministry of Washington’s stooges in Kiev who are pretending to be a government has prepared an economic austerity plan that will cut Ukrainian pensions from $160 to $80 so that Western bankers who lent money to Ukraine can be repaid at the expense of Ukraine’s poor.   It is Greece all over again.

Before anything approaching stability and legitimacy has been obtained for the puppet government put in power by the Washington orchestrated coup against the legitimate, elected Ukraine government, the Western looters are already at work. Naive protesters who believed the propaganda that EU membership offered a better life are due to lose half of their pension by April. But this is only the beginning.

The corrupt Western media describes loans as “aid.” However, the 11 billion euros that the EU is offering Kiev is not aid. It is a loan. Moreover, it comes with many strings, including Kiev’s acceptance of an IMF austerity plan.

Remember now, gullible Ukrainians participated in the protests that were used to overthrow their elected government, because they believed the lies told to them by Washington-financed NGOs that once they joined the EU they would have streets paved with gold. Instead they are getting cuts in their pensions and an IMF austerity plan.

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Ukraine signs $10 billion shale gas deal with Chevron


KIEV Tue Nov 5, 2013 9:11am EST


(L-R, front) Chevron Exploration and Production Europe Derek Magness, Ukraine's Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky, Chairman of the National Joint Stock Company ''Nadra Ukrayny'' Viktor Ponomarenko, (L-R, back) U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Payette, Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich and President of Chevron Europe, Eurasia and Middle East Exploration and Production James Johnson attend a signing ceremony in Kiev, November 5, 2013. REUTERS/Mykhailo Markiv/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters

(L-R, front) Chevron Exploration and Production Europe Derek Magness, Ukraine’s Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky, Chairman of the National Joint Stock Company ”Nadra Ukrayny” Viktor Ponomarenko, (L-R, back) U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Payette, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich and President of Chevron Europe, Eurasia and Middle East Exploration and Production James Johnson attend a signing ceremony in Kiev, November 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mykhailo Markiv/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters




(Reuters) – Ukraine signed a $10 billion shale gas production-sharing agreement with U.S. Chevron (CVX.N) on Tuesday, another step in a drive for more energy independence from Russia.


The deal to develop its western Olesska field followed a similar shale gas agreement with Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) in January and boosts Ukraine’s leadership at a time of fraught relations with Moscow over gas supplies.


“The agreements with Shell and Chevron … will enable us to have full sufficiency in gas by 2020 and, under an optimistic scenario, even enable us to export energy,” President Viktor Yanukovich told investors shortly before the signing.


The highest end of expectations for Olesska’s potential reserves would match around three years of European Union gas demand, but similarly sunny hopes for shale reserves in neighboring Poland have been very sharply downsized.


Shale development in Europe is far behind the booming U.S. sector and progress is patchy. Chevron pulled out of a shale exploration tender in Lithuania and has suspended work at a Romanian shale well after local protests.


Ukraine Energy Minister Eduart Stavytsky, who signed the deal with Chevron executive Derek Magness, set it in the context of a high price Ukraine pays Russia for its gas.


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US, EU begin looting Ukraine resources: Analyst

French President Francois Hollande (L) welcomes the head of the Ukrainian opposition UDAR party Vitali Klitschko (R), and the Ukrainian MP Petro Poroshenko at the Elysee Palace in Paris on March 7, 2014.

French President Francois Hollande (L) welcomes the head of the Ukrainian opposition UDAR party Vitali Klitschko (R), and the Ukrainian MP Petro Poroshenko at the Elysee Palace in Paris on March 7, 2014.
Sat Mar 8, 2014 12:18AM

The United States and the European Union have begun “looting” Ukraine’s resources to obtain stability and legitimacy for their new “puppet government” in Kiev, an analyst writes in a column for the Press TV website.

“Before anything approaching stability and legitimacy has been obtained for the puppet government put in power by the Washington orchestrated coup against the legitimate, elected Ukraine government, the Western looters are already at work,”  Dr. Paul Craig Roberts wrote on Friday.

Roberts pointed to the EU plan to grant Ukraine an 11-billion-euro ($15 billion) aid package over the coming years. The plan was announced by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday.

“The corrupt Western media describes loans as “aid.” However, the 11 billion euros that the EU is offering Kiev is not aid. It is a loan. Moreover, it comes with many strings, including Kiev’s acceptance of an IMF (International Monetary Fund) austerity plan,” he added.


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Protesters throw stones during clashes with riot police close to a tax office in Ettadhamen, Tunisia, 5 kms (3 miles) from Tunis, Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. Protesters throw stones during clashes with riot police close to a tax office in Ettadhamen, Tunisia, 5 kms (3 miles) from Tunis, Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.


Scattered protests over economic hardships have broken out as Tunisia’s new prime minister takes office to lead a caretaker administration to end a crisis three years after its uprising ousted Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisia’s 2011 revolt and the region-wide Arab Spring uprisings were triggered by a street vendor in Sidi Bouzid setting himself alight in an act of protest.

After months of crisis, the Islamist party which came to power after the revolt resigned this week to make way for Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa’s technocrat government until elections this year to complete Tunisia’s democratic transition.

Many Tunisians are more worried about the high cost of living, jobs and economic development. Protesters have taken to the streets this week in southern cities to protest against fiscal reforms including a vehicle tax hike.

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‘Co-showering, less tea:’ UK energy firm’s advice how to cut bill

Published time: January 04, 2014 18:46
Reuters / Stefan Wermuth

Reuters / Stefan Wermuth

Shower with other people, go to bed early and stop drinking tea if you want to cut expenses, suggests British energy firm Frist Utility after whopping their prices up by 18 per cent.

Frist Utility, Britain’s biggest independent energy firm with 120,000 customers, has said that customers should follow an “energy diet” where two days of the week, they save and the remaining five days they use whatever electricity they want.

“Just stick to the low-usage energy plan on fast days, then use what you like on the other five and you could save an average of £154 a year,” the company, which charges an average of £1,120 for electricity and gas, said in a statement.

Showering together can save £34 a year, while turning off the telly and turning out the lights can knock another £18 off your bill, Frist Utility said. Playing a board game and microwaving meals instead of cooking them could also save £12 a year.

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‘European social safety net eroded’: ICRC shocked by accumulated poverty data


Published time: December 05, 2013 02:52
French Red Cross (Croix rouge) volunteers attend to a homeless person living in a train station tunnel (AFP Photo / Loic Venance)

French Red Cross (Croix rouge) volunteers attend to a homeless person living in a train station tunnel (AFP Photo / Loic Venance)


The European Red Cross and Red Crescent societies are seeing a worrying poverty trend across the continent, in some areas reaching WWII proportions, Anitta Underlin, European director of the Red Cross told RT.


RT: Poverty has struck the European Union – about 43 million people suffer from material poverty. Why is the crisis so severe now?

Anitta Underlin: What we have seen since we did our first survey in 2009 and until 2013 is that the crisis is really taking root at the community level, at individual level and at household level to a different degree.

Because people today have used all of their savings, there is nothing left. Government budgets have been cut because government power is also under threat from the crisis. And that means that the whole security net to help the people is really getting eroded.

RT: What is the Red Cross doing to ease the situation?

AU: The Red Cross national societies across Europe – and we are present in 52 countries in the whole West Europe and East Europe – are responding with different measures. One of the very classical Red Cross/Red Crescent response mechanisms is the distribution of food, which has been increased by 75 percent since 2009.

And the reasons why food has been distributed in so many countries, including the EU countries, is that people often, even with small incomes will use all of their available funding to pay for their housing, electricity bill, heating bill and then when it comes to buying food for themselves and their children there is simply nothing left. And many of these families are surviving upon the assistance from the Red Cross/Red Crescent.


AFP Photo / Stephane de Sakutin

AFP Photo / Stephane de Sakutin

RT: Brussels is promising to reduce the number of people living in poverty to 20 million in Europe by 2020. Do you think it’s possible given that the number is 6 times that figure now?

AU: Of course as we always say, it is very difficult to predict the future but what we know is that we are seeing a rapid decrease in what we call the middle class people. Basically in countries like Romania, like in Serbia where the middle class over the last period has been 20 percent. Today, when we measure it, is 10 percent. And that gives us an impression of how many people, who had fought their way to become the middle class in today’s society, now are falling back. And that is of course a worrying tendency that we see: the middle class that we know is the survival of society is getting reduced rapidly.


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Austerity Britain: One in four Britons have gone hungry in last year

28 Nov 2013 01:36

Parents are skipping meals so kids can eat, a study finds, while 40% of households find it harder to put a meal on the table than a year ago




Luxury: Basic food
Luxury: Basic food


A quarter of Brits have gone hungry in the last 12 months because they were broke, a study reveals today.


And parents are skipping meals so their kids can eat, it found – while 40% of households now find it harder to put a meal on the table than a year ago.


Soaring energy bills will force a third of families to choose between heating or eating this winter, says the report by food bank charity the Trussell Trust and store giant Tesco.


It also says two-thirds now in food poverty will endure freezing homes to save cash so they can eat a hot dinner.


The trust estimates that 60,000 people, including 20,000 children, will need emergency rations over the two-week Christmas break.


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UK embarks on biggest food drive since second world war

60,000 people to receive help over festive season as ministers reject claim of link to welfare changes
Neighbourhood Food Collection, Kensington, west London 29/11/13

Shopper Betty Clark donates cereal to volunteers including singer Rebecca Ferguson at Tesco in Kensington, west London. Photograph: John Phillips/PA


The reality of the UK’s cost of living crisis has come under the spotlight this weekend as Britain embarks on its biggest charity food drive since the second world war, with the aim of collecting tonnes of groceries to give to hungry and penniless families over Christmas.

The effort involves the British Red Cross (BRC) – the first time the charity has been engaged in mass food aid collection in the UK since 1945 – working alongside the Neighbourhood Food Collection, which has been set up by the Trussell Trust food bank network, the food aid distribution charity Fare Share and Tesco.

Each of Tesco’s 2,500-plus UK stores is asking customers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to buy extra food essentials such as pasta, rice and cereal to give to the charities.

Charities said the US-style food drive was a response to increasing concerns about the rise in food poverty. “The deeply distressing reality for Britain this Christmas is that thousands of families will struggle to put food on the table,” said the Trussell Trust’s chief executive, Chris Mould. “We’re already meeting parents who are choosing between eating and heating, and rising fuel prices mean that this winter is looking bleak for people on the breadline.”

The trust blames benefit delays, low pay, rising living costs and the so-called bedroom tax for a tripling in food bank use over the past year. It said about 60,000 people were likely to receive emergency food from Trussell Trust food banks in the two weeks over Christmas alone, including 20,000 children.

Ministers have rejected the claim, saying there is no robust evidence of a link between welfare reform and increasing food bank use.

Over 23,000 volunteers will be involved in the food drive, including 500 BRC volunteers. Juliet Mountford, BRC director of UK service development, said the charity had decided to get involved because it found food poverty an increasingly prevalent aspect of its core work helping elderly people to live independently.


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Eat or Heat: Britons angry at energy prices amid soaring ‘winter deaths’


Published on Dec 3, 2013

Britain’s energy suppliers are under-fire after the government pledged to cut bills. But this comes as little comfort to the thousands of UK families stuck below the poverty line and still unable to heat their homes, even with the promised help. RT’s Tesa Arcilla has more.


Half of UK children lack access to proper heating

Half of UK children lack access to proper heating

“Many families are facing stark and unacceptable choices, like heat or eat. This is disgraceful in any country, especially in one of the world’s richest.”

World Bulletin / News Desk

The UK based Children’s Society charity has revealed shocking figures, suggesting that half of children in the UK are living in houses that are too cold. Meanwhile, a quarter of their houses are said to be too damp.

In a study of 2,000 children, 76% said that their family was not well-off, 53% said their house was too cold last winter, 26% said their house had a dampness or mold problem and 24% said their houses were much colder than they could bear. Moreover, 55% said they felt embarrassed about being poor while 14% said they had been bullied because of it.

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Cameron’s heating bill cut as energy prices soar

The Prime Minister’s heating bill is coming down this winter as hard-up families face price rises of almost 10 per cent

The Prime Minister’s heating bill is coming down this winter as hard-up families face price rises of almost 10 per cent.

Cameron leaves Downing Street Photo: GETTY

David Cameron is paying less to heat his Downing Street flat this winter thanks to top rate tax breaks while most British families face inflation-busting price hikes of about 10 per cent.

A cut in the top rate of income tax from 50 per cent to 45 per cent means the amount the Prime Minister has to pay for utilities on his Downing Street flat will be reduced by nearly £400.

News of Cameron’s saving came as a Conservative-led coalition voted out a Labour motion to freeze energy bills by 295 to 237.

The Prime Minister was labelled a hypocrite by opponents who said he should focus on helping ordinary Britons who are struggling with soaring gas and electricity bills rather than benefiting from tax cuts himself.

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex said: “People will be angry and astonished at the front of a PM who claims to feel their pain, when the hypocritical reality is it’s one rule for him and another for the rest of us.”


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The Independent

Winter freeze led to 31,000 extra deaths last year – against a backdrop of soaring energy prices

Needless fatalities pile pressure on Cameron and Big Six over energy price rises

Environment Editor

The Big Six energy firms and the Government came under fresh criticism today as new figures showed that more than 31,000 people died needlessly during last winter’s freezing weather.

About 10,000 of the deaths are estimated to be the result of cold houses, as people struggled to heat their homes in the coldest winter for nearly 50 years, against a backdrop of soaring energy prices.

The vast majority of those who perished were over 75. The number of “excess” deaths was up 29 per cent on the previous year. Britain’s biggest pensioners’ organisation, the National Pensioners Convention, said the figures were a “national scandal”.

Referring to the dismissive language reportedly used by David Cameron to describe the bill levies used to fund home insulation, the NPC’s national secretary Dot Gibson said: “Making sure older people have got a well-insulated warm home and the income to pay the fuel bills isn’t ‘green crap’. It’s what a decent society should do.”

The shadow Public Health minister Luciana Berger called for urgent action to ease pressure on A&E wards and to help people pay their energy bills. She said: “A third of these excess deaths are caused by people living in homes that are too cold. This winter, David Cameron’s failure to stand up to the energy companies will leave too many people forced to choose between heating and eating.”



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Sky News

Rome: Clashes As Thousands March The Streets


Protesters threw smoke bombs and bottles at police in Rome as demonstrations against austerity measures in Italy turned violent.


Riot policemen frame demonstrators during a protest in downtown Rome

Video: Rome: Protesters Clash With Police



Demonstrators have clashed with police in Rome as tens of thousands of people marched through the city to protest against unemployment, government cuts and construction projects they say take money away from social services.


The protesters turned over rubbish bins in front of the Economy Ministry and set several bins on fire.


Using sticks and clubs, they attacked police in riot gear. The police responded by charging the protesters and chasing them up side streets.


The demonstrators, who infiltrated a mostly peaceful protest, threw smoke bombs, eggs and bottles at the ministry and broke the window of a nearby bank.


A protester clashes with a Guardia di Finanza policeman in front of the Ministry of Finance building in downtown Rome
A protester clashes with police in front of the Ministry of Finance


Police said 15 of the most violent protesters have been arrested and two policemen have been injured.


In another area along the demonstration route, police defused a large firework with a bullet inside, which they said could have caused serious damage had it gone off.


Protesters also set off smoke bombs and fireworks along the route and many planned to camp out during the night in front of the Infrastructure Ministry.


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Italian protesters take on police during mass march against austerity budget (PHOTOS)


Published time: October 19, 2013 19:29
Edited time: October 19, 2013 21:41

Violence broke out between police and demonstrators in Rome on Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest Italy’s new budget.



Thousands of people march during an anti-austerity protest on October 19, 2013 in Rome. (AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli)

Thousands of people march during an anti-austerity protest on October 19, 2013 in Rome. (AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli)


We are laying siege to the city!” chanted the crowd, as a small minority pelted the police and government buildings with water bottles and eggs.

A group of protesters turned over garbage bins and set some of them on fire in front of the Economy Ministry.

Members of the Guardia di Finanza protect themselves as they stand in front of the Economy minister during clashes on the sidelines of an anti-austerity protest on October 19, 2013 in Rome. (AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli)

Members of the Guardia di Finanza protect themselves as they stand in front of the Economy minister during clashes on the sidelines of an anti-austerity protest on October 19, 2013 in Rome. (AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli)

Police say they confiscated tear gas canisters and rocks from some of the radicals in the predominantly youthful crowd and found chains stashed away along the route of the march.

Organizers estimated that 70,000 people took part in the protest, while authorities placed the number closer to 50,000.

With this budget the government is continuing to hurt a country which is already on its knees,” said Piero Bernocchi, leader of the left-wing COBAS trade union that was behind the demonstration.

“Even after austerity has proven to be disastrous, with debt rising, the economy crumbling, and unemployment soaring, they still continue with these policies.


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Scott Walker is at it again.

The governor of Wisconsin, who has previously publicly stated his intention to resist Obamacare, had his state’s Department of Natural Resources reject federal requests to close portions of parks in the wake of the federal government’s shutdown.  The Wisconsin DNR also reopened a boat launch that the federal government had closed down on Tuesday.

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“The park service ordered state officials to close (portions of national parks), but state authorities rebuffed the request because the lion’s share of the funding came from state, not federal coffers.”  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had also closed down a boat launch, but “in a sign of defiance, the DNR removed the barricades at the landing, saying it had the legal authority to operate the launch under a 1961 agreement with the federal government.”

Let’s ignore for a moment the idiocy of closing park land because of Congress can’t decide exactly how much it should add to the ballooning national debt.  What Wisconsin has done is quite heroic.  In the face of childish federal “take my ball and go home” tactics, Wisconsin has told the feds to go away, that they can handle the expenses of maintaining these parks without federal “help.”

Read More here


Published on Sep 30, 2013

The decision to resort to austerity has returned to bite the coalition government of Portugal, who’ve suffered defeat in local elections. The country is likely to see a third consecutive year of recession. And tax hikes and job cuts are forcing people to find new ways to survive, as Sara Firth reports.



Surviving off food packages: Poverty-stricken Portuguese turn to charity

Published time: September 25, 2013

Local  Charity Food Programs Lisbon Portugal....RT..Video Capture 00.45 photo LocalCharityFoodProgramsLisbonPortugalRTVideoCapture0045_zps66d71808.jpg

Local  Charity Food Programs Lisbon Portugal….RT..Video Capture 00.45

As austerity continues to wreak havoc for families in Portugal, people are turning to volunteer charities to provide them with food parcels. Charities are now essential in the lives of increasingly deprived sectors of the population.
Local  Charity Food Programs Lisbon Portugal....RT..Video Capture 00.51 photo LocalCharityFoodProgramsLisbonPortugalRTVideoCapture0051_zpsfd5a6a6c.jpg
Local  Charity Food Programs Lisbon Portugal….RT..Video Capture 00.51

Re-Food, the brainchild of Hunter Hadler, supports families overwhelmed by bills and mortgages, collecting unsold food from participating local cafes and restaurants who would otherwise be throwing out perfectly good products at the end of the day.

“We have people who suddenly don’t have work and don’t have income – it’s a harder thing for them to take,” Hadler told RT’s Sara Firth.

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German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has every reason to smile. Zoom

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has every reason to smile.

Germany has profited from the euro crisis to the tune of 41 billion euros in reduced interest payments. Strong demand for its debt has cut yields and made it cheaper for Germany to borrow. Meanwhile, the crisis has only cost Germany a mere 599 million euros thus far.

Germany is profiting from the debt crisis by saving billions of euros in interest on its government debt, which has enjoyed a steep drop in yields due to strong demand from investors seeking a safe haven.


According to figures made available by the Finance Ministry, Germany will save a total of €40.9 billion ($55 billion) in interest payments in the years 2010 to 2014. The number results from the difference between actual and budgeted interest payments.

The information was released in response to a parliamentary inquiry from Social Democrat lawmaker Joachim Poss.

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Steinbrueck Says Merkel Misleading Voters on Euro Debt Crisis

German chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrueck criticized Angela Merkel for misleading voters over the true cost of the European debt crisis, saying he’ll be upfront about the policy decisions needed after fall elections.

Steinbrueck, whose campaign to unseat Merkel on Sept. 22 has been riddled by gaffes and missteps, sought to use the first rally of his campaign to make a virtue out of his reputation for straight talking. Addressing a crowd of about 3,000 in Hamburg today, he contrasted his approach with Merkel’s “lulling” of voters, citing her stances on energy, the economy and on Europe.

Germany will have to come to Europe’s help and foot the bill if necessary,” the Social Democratic Party challenger told supporters, many eating sausages and drinking beer. “But that’s something Mrs. Merkel won’t tell you. It’s not enough to simply beat other countries over the head with the cudgel of saving; we need growth too.”

Steinbrueck, 66, has little more than six weeks to persuade voters he is better able to steer Europe’s biggest economy than Merkel, 59, as polls show Germans approve of her handling of the crisis. Recent surveys suggest he has begun to whittle down the lead held by Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc. She returns to official engagements on Aug. 13 after her vacation, and is due to hold her first rally the next day in Hesse state.

‘Straight Talking’

The SPD challenger, who was Merkel’s first-term finance minister, chose Hamburg, his hometown and the only one of Germany’s 16 states where the SPD has an absolute majority, to try out his new format “Open Air Straight Talking” tour.

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Too much, too fast: the government’s ‘welfare revolution’ starts to unwind

Poor results for universal credit, work programme and youth contract

Labour employment plans

Liam Byrne the shadow work and pensions secretary said: ‘The welfare revolution we were promised has fallen apart.’ Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Buried beneath the news of Prince George’s arrival on Monday was an announcement from the Department for Work and Pensions that staff working for the private IT firm Atos, delivering the controversial fitness-for-work assessments, were all to be retrained, owing to “unacceptably poor” standards of work.

Similarly, long awaited statistics showed Nick Clegg’s £1bn youth contract scheme had helped little more than 2,000 people find long-term work. The numbers covered the first year of what was planned to be a three year scheme. It was dismissed by the shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne as a scheme with a 95% failure rate.

These were bleak indications that all was not well within two of the government’s previously much trumpeted welfare reform programmes – drowned amid royal baby hysteria. It was a significant moment for a department that is rapidly getting used to making uncomfortable admissions.

Over the past few months, the DWP has had to make disappointing announcements in at least four significant policy areas: as well as the work capability assessment announcement and the youth contract figures, the department has indicated that the timetable for implementation of its main benefits reform, universal credit, is slipping back, and has released results from the much-hyped work programme that are best described as mixed.

The DWP has been successful in making the political argument for welfare changes, and polls continue to show support for cuts to benefits across all parties. A poll by Lord Ashcroft suggested that 86% of Unite members support the government’s £26,000 benefit cap – but it has repeatedly stumbled on the implementation side.

Whitehall analysts wonder if the department has bitten off more than it can chew by announcing and attempting to implement a range of ambitious new policies, affecting vast numbers of people, in one term.

Officials have come under huge strain as they struggle to push forward with reform, at a time when the departmental headcount has been cut radically. The Institute for Fiscal Studies calculated recently that between 2011 and 2016 the department will have lost 40% of its workforce. The Public and Commercial Services union said the DWP had cut 20,000 jobs since May 2010.

Labour has been struggling to marry its fervent belief that social security is a cornerstone of social democracy with a public increasingly intolerant of “benefit culture”. Its spokesmen attack specific reforms, but cannot say if they will be repealed.

Labour’s own tough proposals for welfare, such as the requirement to work after two years on the dole, are either not known or little understood. Its best hope may lie in the claim Tory welfare is not working. Incompetence rather than ideology becomes the battleground.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne is moving in that direction. He said: “The welfare revolution we were promised has fallen apart. The work programme doesn’t work, universal credit is disappearing into the sunset, and now we know that the youth contract has been a disaster and Atos is spinning out of control. Iain Duncan Smith has presided over the worst delivery failure seen in any government department for years.”

Several policy analysts agree that part of the problem lies with the department’s determination to introduce several major reforms simultaneously, focusing on getting them running, and less on how well they work once they have been launched.

Tom Gash, research director at the Institute for Government, which last week published a report questioning the government’s skills at outsourcing and commissioning private companies to take on complex and risky government contracts, said: “The government’s capacity to manage these programmes is not yet up there with their ambition.”

Dave Simmonds, chief executive for the employment thinktank Inclusion, said: “Politicians are running too hard, pushing diminishing numbers of civil servants.”

Anne Begg, Labour MP and chair of the work and pensions select committee, which scrutinises the work of the DWP, said: “Any one of these major reforms would be a big reform for a department to undertake in a parliamentary cycle and they have five on at once, including pension reform. The volumes of people affected are huge. It would be a miracle if everything worked instantly.Citizens Advice says the scale of reform has made this a difficult period for claimants. “Delivering complex reforms can lead to big problems, as shown by the fact that last year Citizens Advice Bureaus dealt with almost half a million problems with employment and support allowance, 54% higher than the previous year,” the charity’s chief executive, Gillian Guy, said, referring to the new incapacity benefit, granted to those who pass Atos-administered fitness for work tests. “Nine out of ten of our clients that we spoke to in a recent study said they are not ready for universal credit.”

The DWP said: “There is no doubt that this department is pursuing and delivering an aggressive reform agenda. We’ve already successfully launched the benefit cap, universal credit and the new personal independence payment, and the work programme has got over 320,000 of the hardest to help into jobs. We’re bringing in our reforms safely and responsibly, and our ability to deliver these changes cannot be questioned following our well proven track record for delivery.”

The key areas of difficulty for the department are currently the work programme, universal credit, the youth contract and the employment and support allowance tests.

Universal credit

Something has gone wrong with universal credit, the centrepiece of the welfare revolution. It may well be rectifiable and in October 2017 everyone on benefit in and out of work will be on universal credit, as Duncan Smith had always planned and insists will still happen.

But with the changes to the speed with which universal credit will be introduced, and to the kind of caseload that will be put into the system, it is difficult to be confident.

Aware of the potential political damage, ministers are often unclear in public about the source of delay, repeatedly offering reassurance, insisting they had always planned to road-test ideas, and denying they were ever wedded to an artificial timetable set out in 2011.

The potential for disaster is evident. Universal credit merges six different benefits together and the claimant receives a single monthly household payment. It requires different payments to landlords, more online claims, and merges in- and out-of-work benefits, requiring a new benefit condition regime for those in work. It also requires close co-operation between the DWP systems and tax officials at HMRC.

The first steps have been baby steps. Universal credit went live on 29 April with just one jobcentre – Ashton under Lyne – accepting clams for universal credit and three other jobcentres, Wigan, Warrington and Oldham, testing the system before taking claims for universal credit in July. It had been intended that all four jobcentres would go live in April.

The aim was to start with the most simple caseload, such as a single unemployed claimant, to see how universal credit changes the claimant’s behaviour and how the IT systems work.

It had been intended that from October that all new claimants receiving out of work benefits would move to universal credit, but earlier this month Duncan Smith told the work and pensions select committee that the credit would be introduced for new claimants in just six additional “hub jobcentres” – Hammersmith, Rugby, Inverness, Harrogate, Bath and Shotton, alongside the existing four “pathfinders”.


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