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Labour will scrap universal credit, John McDonnell declares

LABOUR would scrap the government’s failed universal credit, John McDonnell vowed today, in a step beyond the party’s policy to date.

The shadow chancellor insisted that the widely criticised Tory flagship scheme for welfare reform is not sustainable and “will have to go.”

His pledge escalates Labour’s previous policy to pause the roll-out and change the policy.

“I think most people now are coming to the conclusion that it has got to be scrapped,” Mr McDonnell told Sky News.

“I have been listening to people over the last few weeks about the roll-out in their particular areas; I’ve been looking at what the government has said about how they are seeking to reform it. The reforms haven’t worked.

“I think we’re at that stage now that it’s not sustainable any more. It’s not a system that can work.

“It’s not a system that’s providing the safety net that people expect when they need support.

“I think we are moving to a position now where it is just not sustainable. It will have to go.”

Mr McDonnell accused Prime Minister Theresa May and the Tories on Saturday of lying in their claim to the public that austerity has ended.

The shadow chancellor, who spoke at an anti-austerity rally in Pudsey, Leeds, told the Morning Star: “We will be holding the government to account. This is the third time in two years the government has announced the end to austerity.

“The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that 75 per cent of welfare cuts are still to come, so if they are serious about ending austerity, in his coming budget Philip Hammond should get up and announce the end of cuts to welfare.

“He clearly will not — and we will be exposing what is effectively a lie.

“Three times they have announced the end, yet there are still cuts coming to welfare benefits, school budgets and local authority budgets in particular.”

Mr McDonnell said that when Labour is in government, every region will be consulted in drawing up its needs for investment, particularly in transport infrastructure.

“Transport infrastructure spending is one-tenth of what it has been in London,” he said.

“There will be no discrimination against regions outside London and the south-east.”

Mr McDonnell is on a speaking tour targeting constituencies where Tory MPs have small majorities. Pudsey Tory MP Stuart Andrew’s majority is 331.

Labour’s candidate for Pudsey is Jane Aitchison, who is president of Leeds Trades Union Council and a Public & Commercial Services union activist.

She said: “I’ve fought against austerity since it began. With my union PCS we developed a clear alternative to austerity 10 years ago. Theresa May has no intention of abolishing austerity — it’s been too good for her, her party interests and her rich financier backers.

“John McDonnell and [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn have been the political backbone of the anti-austerity movement. We need to get them into power to finally end austerity and the wage restraint and homelessness and desperate need for foodbanks it has brought to this country.”

Yesterday morning Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery hit out at Tory counterpart Brandon Lewis for failing to rule out austerity on BBC TV’s Andrew Marr show.

He said: “Brandon Lewis has confirmed that Theresa May’s end of austerity claim is bogus.

“Our schools, councils, welfare system and health service are in crisis, but Brandon Lewis repeatedly refused to say they’d cancel their planned cuts, which will hit working people hard.”

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