Labour and Conservative councillors failed to agree on the wording of a motion on Universal Credit (UC), which some said shows cross-party engagement is not working.

Harrow Council discussed the Labour Group motion, which sought to approve an action plan on dealing with the flaws of Universal Credit, at a full council meeting on Thursday (January 16).

The opposition Conservative Group agreed with the “substance” of the motion but tabled an amendment which removed a line outlining the impact of Universal Credit.

It also wanted to include a reference to the “laudable aims” of Universal Credit, while acknowledging that the implementation of the system is flawed.

Cllr Adam Swersky, who moved the motion, noted the positive intentions of Universal Credit, but took issue with any attempt to lessen the detrimental impact of its roll out.

He said: “It is the biggest change to the welfare system we are likely to see in our lifetimes.

“It had some merits but, in reality, it’s led to cutting benefits and making things harder for those who need them most.

“We’ve already seen the problems in Harrow and councils are at the front line in the fight against poverty.”

The Conservative Group stood by its position, noting that it was effectively criticising its own Government, but urged councillors to appreciate its minor amendment.

Cllr Marilyn Ashton, deputy leader of Harrow Conservatives, said it was a “pity Labour wouldn’t meet them halfway”.

She said: “It’s a shame because we essentially agree on the same things.

“We are being honest, offering humility and are willing to accept this motion. But we want to include words that are in the actual [council] report.

“There seems to be an issue in the Labour Party in general where it is unable to admit when it’s got things wrong.”

Harrow Conservative leader Cllr Paul Osborn added that it was typical of the administration trying to “tell people what to do.”

“It strikes at the heart of why cross-party engagement isn’t working,” he said.

“Instead of a strong cross-party motion, you’re getting a partisan statement. It’s sad that we start the year, and the decade, on this basis.”

Labour councillors – who hold a majority – voted against the amendment, with council leader Cllr Graham Henson reiterating that it was important to “note” the impact of Universal Credit.

The Conservatives voted against the motion – in protest at the rejection of their amendment – but this was not enough to stop it passing.