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UK's £500m web dole queue project director replaced after JUST 4 months

DWP sidelines Universal Credit IT overseer Hilary Reynolds

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Exclusive The Department for Work and Pensions has replaced the project director of Universal Credit, its £500m web-based benefits system, days after denying it's suffering an IT management crisis.

Project director Hilary Reynolds will be moved sideways and her role filled by David Pitchford, Universal Credit's chief executive. Pitchford was hired in February as a replacement for Philip Langsdale, who died over the Christmas period.

The DWP told El Reg in an official statement this morning:

David Pitchford's role as chief executive for Universal Credit effectively combines the senior responsible officer and programme director (Hilary's post) roles. As a result, Hilary Reynolds will now move onto other work.

However, a spokeswoman at the DWP denied that Reynolds - a senior civil servant who has more than 25 years' experience in the public sector in Britain and New Zealand - would be told to leave Iain Duncan Smith's work and pensions department.

"She's finishing up her work on Universal Credit and handing over and then moving on to a new role," the spokeswoman told the Reg. She was unable to tell us how long the handover to Pitchford would take.

Reynolds replaced Brit Computer Society fellow Malcolm Whitehouse in November 2012. At the time, the DWP ducked El Reg's line of questioning on Reynolds' past IT experience.

Just last week, dole office bosses were forced to deny allegations that the Universal Credit project was in crisis after Labour MPs claimed that some workers implementing the new IT system had downed tools.

Work and pensions minister Mark Hoban described the allegations as a "red herring" and insisted that the programme was on track. He said:

We have made clear our plan for a gradual roll-out for new claimants from October 2013. We have always said that the progressive roll-out of new claims across the country would begin in October 2013. That is a simple restatement of what we have always intended to do.

Universal Credit aims to overhaul Blighty's dole office by merging six government handouts into one regular payment, which can be claimed and managed online. It is due to go fully live by October 2013 after rounds of testing, due to start next month. ®

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