Theresa May and the 55p-per-minute miscalculation

The biggest cock-up committed by Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday has to have been over Universal Credit – and the cost of phoning in a claim.

First, let’s have a quick summary of the problem, courtesy of the Labour Party:

Mrs May doesn’t see it that way, of course – and defended the benefit when Jeremy Corbyn challenged her about it.

So Mr Corbyn made the following point:

See, to Mrs May and her fellow Tories, 55p per minute is hardly worth considering. But £5.50 for a 10-minute call is a fortune if you’re unemployed and need to claim a benefit.

Tories avoid thinking about these things because they show up the flaws in Conservative thinking.

The rest of us don’t avoid thinking about these things, and Mrs May’s stuttered response (always a sign that they’re lying or don’t have anything good to say) provided plenty of opportunity for criticism:

The situation was worsened – if that’s possible – by Tory minister for Cheese, Liz Truss, who was sent to the BBC’s Daily Politics and The World at One programmes to justify her boss’s gaffe:

Yes it was. You can see the moment she realised she was in trouble – her face drops around 40 seconds into the clip.

But she went on to make matters worse:

There was only one conclusion to reach, and here it is:

And here’s the clincher – it was left to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg (possibly after a phone call from her friends in the Tory government) to point out that people can ask the DWP to call them back:

Knowing the DWP, though, is there any guarantee that the call would be returned?

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10 thoughts on “Theresa May and the 55p-per-minute miscalculation

  1. NMac

    Greedy Tories even want to make money out of poor people who have the misfortune to have to get help for their Universal Credit.

  2. Barry Durrans

    Aboslute joke! Does she not realise you can’t just go into the jobcentre to get the advice? You HAVE to call UNiversal Credit to arrange an interview. You HAVE to call them for an advance. 37 minutes I was on the phone to them last week. 25 of them were on hold, so how can you ask them to call you back because of the expense when most of the expense is on hold?! Great money making idea. MAke claimants wait for 20 minutes and get your £10 for the pleasure of calling them. Disgusting, vile party who just want social cleansing

  3. wildthing666

    There is a simple answer to the 55p a minute charge, EMAIL! No matter what you want email them, if they say phone the 55p a minute line, reply with NOTICE OF PROSECUTION IMPENDING. Give them 7 days then start the proceedings, and don’t stop them until they pay up. I normally give them 14 days, but in this case drop it to 7 days, you want a paper trail and emails cause paper trails, even if they delete their copy you still have yours. Normally 01 to 03 numbers are included in the mobile operators free minutes but these are premium rates and don’t apply to mobile numbers.

    I have success with this method on several occasions, from ESA to JSA and other benefits they always take the full time given to pay up or send the information requested. It is up to the claimant whether they give the DWP 7,14 or 21 days but where there is a time limit 7 days seems more than enough to me, as the DWP will use the without good cause rule, for any excuse they can, or they will say they have passed the time limit, normally 1 month from the date on the letter.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Not everybody has email.
      Benefit claimants are in poverty. Many of them are extremely vulnerable.
      So many of them are completely unable to do as you suggest.

  4. Stu

    Let’s do a BBC style reality check here…..

    The call back still needs the initial call in the first place which can take a good 15 mins waiting for someone to connect so is £8.25.
    That’s around 10% of the weekly JSA – the equivalent for May on her PM’s salary would be around £152 for the same call if she made it.

    (but then again, she could claim it back on expenses)

  5. laurence293

    This is a red herring. The helpline isn’t free, but it’s only the standard landline charge – it costs no more to call the UC helpline than it does to call your mother. It only costs 55p a minute if you’re using the most expensive tariff from the most expensive mobile company (Vodafone). Most people will pay considerably less (under 5p a minute) and many will pay nothing at all. I’m no fan of UC or this government, but choice of telephone service is a personal matter.

  6. Jenny Hambidge

    I understand it is free in Wales- no idea how this happened. I have waited up to 30 minutes for a call to be answered but of course it is answered immediately in the first instance electronically and I presume the charge started running from then.

Comments are closed.