Rishi Sunak has blamed “technical problems” in stopping him from further raising benefits this year to help people with the cost of living crisis.
The Chancellor admitted that his reasoning “sounds like an excuse”, as he said that the UK’s welfare system is “technically complicated”.
It comes as fuel and energy prices soar, whilst the cost of goods in supermarkets has also seen a jump.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier indicated that help from the Government to people to deal with the cost of living could be expected in months, rather than days, as had previously been suggested.
In an interview with Bloomberg UK, Sunak ruled out the possibility of benefits being raised.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions told Bloomberg that benefits programmes involved “complex and inefficient paper-based systems that are slowed further by ageing, inflexible IT”, with changes taking “several months to process.”
“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,” said Sunak.
“And actually many of the systems are built in a way that that can only be done once a year and the decision was taken quite a while ago.”
Sunak indicated that the welfare system works very differently to the systems put in place to deliver the furlough scheme during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He added: “The welfare system works in a very different way and we’re constrained somewhat by the operation of the welfare system.
“So it can’t be done for everybody in that way, but we are still supporting people.”
The SNP’s work and pensions spokesperson, MP Kirsty Blackman, said that people were being met with a “callous Tory government” as they look for action to help with the cost of living.
She said: “From a pathetic ‘computer says no’ excuse to saying it would be ‘silly’ to help people with rising bills just now, Rishi Sunak continues to show how out of touch the Westminster Tory government is with ordinary people.
“People are looking for real action to help with the Tory-made cost-of-living crisis, instead they are being met with a callous Tory government that is sitting on its hands and finding any excuse not to help struggling households.
“The Chancellor must use the reserved powers available to him to deliver support now – including following the Scottish Government’s 6% uprating of benefits, matching the game-changing Scottish Child Payment UK-wide, and reversing the £1040 cuts to Universal Credit.”