It’s been reported today that the DWP has lodged a further appeal against the decision that they have to release several reports about Universal Credit. As they were explicitly refused leave to appeal, this is presumably an appeal against the refusal of leave to appeal – which is not likely to get them very far, apart from delaying things further. There is, it seems, an area of DWP activity where spending taxpayers’ money is no object.
The detailed story can be read on the blog of the Campaign4Change. The documents at issue are the Universal Credit Issues Register, the Milestone Schedule, the Risk Register and the review by the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority. It seems that the DWP is claiming that the documents reveal “candid” and “imaginative pessimism”, but their previous argument that release would have a “chilling effect” was dismissed outright by the Information Tribunal.
The judge in this case commented on ““the sharp contrast with the unfailing confidence and optimism of a series of press releases by the DWP or ministerial statements as to the progress of the Universal Credit Programme during the relevant period.” The Work And Pensions Committee’s last report on Universal Credit was also highly critical of the DWP’s attitude to public scrutiny. This is from paragraph 71:
It is not acceptable for Ministers to provide information about changes to major policy implementation to this Committee, and indeed to Parliament and the public more broadly, only when forced to do so by the imminent prospect of being held to account in a public oral evidence session. We recommend that, in response to this Report, DWP sets out how it will improve the frankness, accuracy and timeliness of the information it provides to us, to ensure that it meets the required levels of transparency between the Government and select committees, and that we are not hampered in trying to carry out our formal scrutiny role effectively.