Benefit change ‘step in right direction’

Chancellor Philip Hammond holding his red ministerial box outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday November 22, 2017. See PA story BUDGET Main. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Chancellor Philip Hammond holding his red ministerial box outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday November 22, 2017. See PA story BUDGET Main. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

North Lancashire Citizen’s Advice Bureau CAB) has welcomed changes to the way Universal Credit is being rolled out.

In the Budget this week, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that a £1.5bn package will be available to “address concerns” about the delivery of Universal Credit, which has received widespread criticism.

The seven-day initial waiting period for processing of claims will also be scrapped, while claimants will get one month’s payment within five days of applying and repayment period for advances will increase from six to 12 months.

Helen Greatorex, chief officer of North Lancs CAB, said the announcement was a “step in the right direction” but warned that claimants would still face slipping into arrears, while landlords would still be out of pocket.

She added: “We’ve been campaigning for such a long time about this, so we’re glad they’ve listened.

“Any reduction in waiting times, increase in housing benefit, or extension to repayments is welcome, but it’s not going to have a massive impact and arrears are still going to increase.”

Other measure announced in the Budget on Wednesday include £2.8bn in extra funding for the NHS in England, with £350m immediately to address pressures this winter, £1.6bn for 2018-19 and the remainder in 2019-20.

Labour said the funding wasn’t enough.

The tax-free personal allowance on income tax will rise to from £11,500 to £11,850 in April 2018, while the National Living Wage will rise in April 2018 by 4.4 per cent, from £7.50 an hour to £7.83.

Stamp duty is to be abolished immediately for first-time buyers purchasing properties worth up to £300,000, while there is s long-term goal to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

The growth forecast for the UK for 2017 has been downgraded from 2 per cent to 1.5 per cent, while GDP has been downgraded to 1.4, 1.3 and 1.5 per cent in subsequent years before rising to 1.6 per cent in 2021-22.

Productivity growth and business investment has also been revised down, while the annual rate of CPI inflation forecast is to fall from peak of three per cent towards the two per cent target later this year.

A total of £3bn is to be set aside over the the next two years to prepare UK for every possible outcome as it leaves the EU.