Rishi Sunak Blames Computers For The Treasury's Reluctance To Increase Benefits

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Rishi Sunak jumped to defend the UK's current benefits system on Friday (Photo: Bloomberg)
Rishi Sunak jumped to defend the UK's current benefits system on Friday (Photo: Bloomberg)

Rishi Sunak jumped to defend the UK's current benefits system on Friday (Photo: Bloomberg)

Rishi Sunak claimed that the government’s computer system was stopping him from increasing the amount of money people receive in benefits in a rather peculiar interview which has ignited criticism online.

Sunak, along with the rest of the government, is facing growing backlash over the cost of living crisis.More than two million Brits have admitted they skip a meal at least once a day just to cut back on costs.

Benefits were increased just 3.1% in April, even though inflation, which is at a 30-year-high, has risen to 7% – and it’s only expected to get worse as the year progresses.

Sunak also refused to postpone his hike in national insurance contributions which kicked in last month.

Speaking to Bloomberg UK on Friday morning, the chancellor once again shrugged off calls for the treasury to step in and offer more financial aid to struggling households in light of soaring prices.

Instead, he blamed the government’s antiquated IT system.

He said: “Technical problems sounds like an excuse, but the operation of our welfare system is actually, technically complicated and it’s not necessarily possible to do that for everybody.

“And actually many of the systems are built in a way that can only be done once a year and the decision was taken quite a while ago before we even realised.”

When Bloomberg Economics’ Stephanie Flanders pointed out: “You designed the furlough scheme for most of the UK workforce in two weeks.”

Sunak replied: “The welfare system works in a very different way and we are constrained somewhat by the operation of the welfare system, but we are still supporting people.”

Not everyone was convinced by his explanation for the treasury’s actions.

Torsten Bell, director of the Resolution Foundation, said: “The chancellor is right that it’s very difficult to change benefits outside the usual cycle, particularly for pensions. But these barriers can be overcome.”

He also tweeted that the problem is not the treasury’s reluctance to spend money, but its refusal to target those “being hardest hit”.

Bell wasn’t the only person tweeting about Sunak’s claim either. Here’s a round-up of the most withering responses.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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