LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May is on the verge of making concessions around a key welfare reform that has angered opposition parties as well as members of her own Conservatives, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
The government has signaled that it is looking at ways to reduce the waiting time for payments from its new Universal Credit benefits system from six weeks, the newspaper said on Saturday, without citing sources.
Last week some lawmakers from May’s own party vented their dismay over the government’s handling of Universal Credit, which is designed to simplify payments to claimants by consolidating six different types of state benefits into one.
The policy was first implemented for a small number of claimants in 2013 under May’s predecessor David Cameron, but the expansion of the program has been beset by long delays and criticism that it risks harming vulnerable citizens.
Last week the opposition Labour Party won a symbolic vote on a motion calling for the welfare plan to be paused, but May’s party avoided a full-blown public rebellion by ordering its lawmakers to abstain, thereby masking the extent of internal unrest.
May leads a minority government, propped up by a small Northern Irish party, faced with the task of delivering a smooth departure from the European Union – something which requires a deeply split parliament to approve large amounts of new legislation.
Separately, the Independent reported that the government has told energy investors a proposal to cap energy bills could be ditched if it feels that major power companies are doing enough to limit high bills, citing civil servants.
May’s office was not immediately available for comment on either story.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by James Dalgleish)