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Hull seeks to become first UK city to introduce universal basic income

'Our welfare system is broken, we need to start looking at alternatives,' says councillor

Kate Ng,Conrad Duncan
Sunday 19 January 2020 21:39 GMT
What is Finland's universal basic income scheme?

Hull is looking to become the first city in the UK to test universal basic income (UBI) after a proposal was backed by a cross-party group of councillors.

Local politicians passed a motion proposed by Paul Drake-Davis, a Liberal Democrat councillor, on Thursday and plan to write to the government to request permission to pilot the scheme.

Mr Drake-Davis told the Yorkshire Post earlier this week that UBI “has the potential to help people reach their full creative and economic potential”.

“We live in a world of increasing job insecurity, where more and more people in Hull and across the UK are struggling to plan and build a better future for themselves and their families,” the councillor said.​

“Instead, people are just focused on surviving month-to-month. There needs to be a change to the system.”

Matt Jukes, the chief executive of Hull City Council, will write to chancellor Sajid Javid to seek the green light on running a trial of the policy.

The introduction of UBI would see every adult paid a weekly sum, estimated at between £50 and £100 a week, regardless of income.

People who receive disability benefits would be given an equivalent sum in UBI, while pensioners would receive higher payments and children lower ones.

“Our welfare system is broken, we need to start looking at alternatives such as UBI,” Jack Haines, another Liberal Democrat councillor, wrote on Twitter.

“Hull is a progressive city and I’m proud the Lib Dems here as well as the other parties have chosen to try out this new policy,” he added.

The idea of UBI has seen varying levels of success in Finland, the US and Kenya, and gained interest from cities in the north of the UK, including Sheffield, which passed a motion in support of a pilot of UBI in June 2019.​ Two-fifths of Britons would welcome such a scheme in their home towns, The Independent has previously reported.

Last year, the Labour manifesto contained a pledge to introduce a trial for UBI as an “innovative ways of responding to low pay​”, while the Green Party also pledged to introduce a Universal Basic Income Bill during the December general election.

A report by Guy Standing, a member of the Progressive Economy Forum (PEF) and an economic adviser to shadow chancellor John McDonnell, also supported the introduction of pilot schemes for UBI last year.

In May, Mr McDonnell described the report as an “important contribution” to the debate on inequality and poverty.

“There have been pilots of ‘basic income’ elsewhere and Guy Standing has looked at them and come forward with proposals,” the Labour shadow chancellor said.

“Whatever mechanism we use, whether ‘basic income’ or another, we have to lead in developing a radical mechanism aimed at eradicating poverty but also means testing.”

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