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Spring Holiday Friday a good day to bury bad news? Major Projects Authority (MPA) commentary on Universal Credit here…

May 25, 2013

Yesterday the Major Projects Authority (MPA), a unit in the Cabinet Office, released an evaluation of the major projects running in central government.  Political editors of all the broadsheet newspapers were severely critical that such an important report was released at 5pm at the start of a holiday weekend.


I’ve done you a favour! The ‘report’ itself is not in an easily readable “PDF” format, but on a series of webpages not located under the Major Projects Authority, and the guts of the report information is hidden away in cramped spreadsheet cells. The following information on the government’s largest IT project is contained in cells “H1 to H13” of one of these spreadsheets! I couldn’t read the contents of these cells until I had resized the cells. (See Douglas Adams’s wry commentary on public transparency here “Beware of the leopard!”).

Here is that data, and DWP’s disclaimer as to its validity.  Strange that DWP feels that the MPA’s data is so out of date when the MPA boss (Dave Pitchford) has been running Universal Credit for the last 3 months and is signatory to the foreword of this report!

Project name


Universal Credit Programme




MPA RAG rating  (A Delivery Confidence Assessment of the project at a fixed point in time, using a five-point scale, Red – Amber/Red – Amber – Amber/Green – Green; definitions in the MPA Annual Report)



Description / aims


Universal Credit provides a new single system of means-tested support for working-age people who are in or out of work. It aims to reduce the number of workless households by reducing the financial and administrative barriers to work that exist in the current system of benefits and tax credits, and replacing the complexity of the income-related benefits system (Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-related Jobseeker’s Allowance, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit) with a single payment which supports people to find work, find more work, and find better paid work.

Departmental narrative, actions on Delivery Confidence Assessment


This rating dates back to September 2012, more than seven months ago.  Since then, significant progress has been made in the delivery of Universal Credit. The Pathfinder was successfully launched and we are on course both to expand the Pathfinder in July 2013 and start the progressive national roll-out of Universal Credit in October.

Project – start date



Project – end date



Departmental narrative on schedule, including any deviation from planned schedule


The Universal Credit Pathfinder was successfully launched on 29th April in areas of Greater Manchester and Cheshire.   Ashton-under-Lyne is accepting claims for Universal Credit. Wigan, Warrington and Oldham are trialling the Claimant Commitment and applying a more intensive approach to work search and ensuring new JSA claimants are signed onto Universal Jobmatch.   We are on course to expand the Pathfinder in July when Wigan Warrington and Oldham will also take claims for Universal Credit.   This careful and controlled approach will ensure that all aspects of Universal Credit are tested – starting small and refining before we start the progressive national roll out from October.   Our plan is to make sure the full transition to Universal Credit is delivered in a safe and managed way.   In terms of how we manage delivery implementation from the start of progressive roll-out in October to full transition in 2017, there are three key factors we will consider.  First, we will learn valuable lessons from the Pathfinder – that is the whole point of a Pathfinder. We will examine the results forensically, and apply them in rolling out Universal Credit nationally.  Second, David Pitchford has been acting as interim Chief Executive for Universal Credit following the sad death of Philip Langsdale. As Head of the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority, he has provided valuable insights into the most effective way to deliver a complex IT project of this scale, in line with the Government’s Digital Strategy – including latest thinking on the best enabling technologies and platforms, how best to manage suppliers and deliver value to money.  Third, Howard Shiplee, the man that built the Olympic Park, has now taken over from David Pitchford in overseeing the delivery of Universal Credit. He will be using these ideas in finalising the detail of the long-term delivery plan for UC, together with his own wealth of experience in successful project delivery.

 2012/13 Budget (£million)



 2012/13 Forecast (£million)



Total budgeted whole life costs (£million)  (including non-government costs)



Departmental narrative on  budget/forecast variance for 2012/13  (if variance is more than 5%)


At the time of the review, there was a slight variance against budget.

Departmental narrative on budgeted whole life costs


The budgeted whole life costs will be contained within any Treasury limits and approvals.


From → Agile Governance

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