THE minister in charge of Universal Credit has been branded the “Grinch that stole Glasgow’s Christmas” as the benefit is set to cause hardship over the festive season.

Alok Sharma, employment minister, was taking questions in the House of Commons and Glasgow MPs grilled him on the benefit currently being rolled out in the city.

Alison Thewliss, Glasgow Central’s SNP MP, highlighted the benefit change will be coming to the east end three weeks before Christmas.

She said: “Someone making a claim on 5 December, the day that universal credit starts at Shettleston jobcentre will receive no money until 9 January. Is the Minister happy to be known as the Grinch that stole Glasgow’s Christmas?”

Mr Sharma said there is an advance available for claimants, which has then to be paid back reducing their money in the following months.

He said: “I have never been described as a Grinch before. The Hon Lady ought to be encouraging her constituents to talk about the advance that is available for people.”

Paul Sweeney, Labour MP for Glasgow North East, asked if the minister would at least suspend sanctions until after Christmas.

The minister however defended the sanctions regime.

Mr Sharma, said: “Sanctions are implemented only once there has been a detailed process, and there is an opportunity for individuals who are facing a potential referral to explain to decision makers why there are mitigating circumstances.”

As Glasgow’s MPs lined up to ask questions he dismissed their concerns sometimes flippantly.

Chris Stephens, Glasgow South West SNP MP raised concerns from DWP staff.

He said: “What message does the Minister have for beleaguered DWP staff? A trade union briefing sent to MPs yesterday tells a sorry tale of staff having to deal with so many telephone calls that universal credit claims are not being maintained and payments are being delayed.”

Mr Sharma replied: “I wager that I have been to rather more jobcentres than the Hon Gentleman, and I invariably hear from jobcentre staff that things are working well. 

“However, where we can improve, we do, and staff can feed back about improvements. That is what the ‘test and learn’ process is all about.”