Sir John Major: Universal Credit could repeat Poll Tax problems

Sir John Major: Universal Credit could repeat Poll Tax problems

Protestors at a demonstration against the Poll Tax, which later became a riot known as the 'Battle of Trafalgar', London, 31st March 1990

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major has said the Government needs to rethink its national roll-out of Universal Credit, warning most Britons will think current plans are unfair.

It was recently suggested that families could end up hundreds of pounds worse off.

Sir John said that failing to protect people who could lose out as a result of the welfare reforms would trigger “the sort of problems that the Conservative Party ran into with the poll tax”.

His intervention comes after fellow former Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned the scheduled roll-out would lead to “chaos” akin to that seen in 1990.

Mr Brown cited research by the Resolution Foundation, which suggests 3.2 million working families are set to lose an average of £48 a week as a result, equivalent to about £2,400 a year.

The Labour leadership have called for the new benefit to be scrapped.


'A real danger' 

Police and protestors at a demonstration against the Poll Tax, in Hackney, London, 8th March 1990

Sir John told the BBC that Universal Credit was "impeccable" and "entirely logical" in theory, but called for its implementation to be reconsidered.

He said: "I don't oppose the principle of Universal Credit, I think there is a real danger it will be introduced too soon and in the wrong circumstances.

"So I do think we need to look very carefully at how it is introduced."

The poll tax, also known as the community charge, was supposed to make local council finance fairer.

It led to riots in the 1990s and a rebellion within the Conservative Party, which contributed to the fall of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister.

Sir John scrapped the poll tax when he replaced Mrs Thatcher, but has said he was not predicting riots as a result of Universal Credit.


People 'will be protected' 

Speaking at PMQs on Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May said people "will not see any reduction" and “will be protected”.

Universal Credit is a new benefit, which combines six separate benefits into one monthly payment. These benefits are:

  • Income support

  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance

  • Income-related employment and support allowance

  • Housing benefit

  • Child tax credit

  • Working tax credit

Universal Credit was designed to make claiming benefits simple and reward those going into work but its implementation has been plagued with delays.

The process of making universal credit available to all claimant groups across the UK is now due to go ahead this summer after several delays.