Wales politics

AMs call for pause to universal credit roll-out

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AMs have backed calls for a pause to the roll out of universal credit in a vote.

The UK government is under pressure to delay the expansion of the new benefit system, amid concerns over six-week waits for payments.

A Labour vote calling for a delay was passed by 32 AMs to 21, but Plaid calls for welfare devolution were rejected.

Tory AMs acknowledged "concern" with the benefit, but welcomed the principles behind universal credit.

It comes after Tory assembly member Angela Burns, in a leaked email, said she was ashamed at her own UK government over the benefit.

The vote followed a debate on universal credit called by Plaid Cymru, calling for powers over welfare to be devolved.

Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins said: "If Labour was serious about altering the current benefits and housing assistance regime, they would be supporting the devolution of benefit spending and policy, including universal credit."

Image caption Carl Sargeant said many claimants "will not be able to afford to pay their rent"

Carl Sargeant, Welsh Government communities minister, said many claimants "will not be able to afford to pay their rent to their landlord until the first payment is received".

"Local authorities where universal credit's full services are already in operation are seeing increases in rent for many tenants, and this is causing, or exacerbating, debt problems for those most in need of support," he said.

Tory AM Mark Isherwood said his group "welcome reports that UK ministers could reduce the waiting time for universal credit payments from six weeks".

He praised Tory MPs who had put pressure on the UK government over the benefit, saying they were doing their "democratic job".

But he added: "Evidence today shows people are moving into work faster and staying longer in their job as a result of universal credit."

UKIP's Gareth Bennett said his group shared concerns, adding: "The way that the new setup has been designed is so very flawed that it leaves us very probably in a worse situation than we were in before."

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