Candidates for Mayor asked to sign pledge backing Universal Basic Income

Candidates running for Mayor in thirteen areas across England are being asked to sign a pledge backing trials of Universal Basic Income (UBI) ahead of May’s local elections.

The pledge says that, as Mayor, signatories will:

  • “Support calls to pilot Universal Basic Income in my community”
  • “Lobby government for the devolved powers needed to pilot UBI”
  • “Work with other Mayors across the UK to call for a new economic settlement, which includes trialling a Universal Basic Income”

Green Party co-leader and candidate for Mayor of London Sian Berry was the first candidate to sign. Candidates who sign the pledge are encouraged to use the hashtag #PledgeForUBI

The pledge has since been signed by two candidates for Mayor of West Yorkshire: the Green Party’s Cllr Andrew Cooper and Cllr Stewart Golton for the Liberal Democrats. It has also been signed by Melanie Horrocks, the Green Party candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester.

The pledge is a joint project from the UBI Lab Network, the Basic Income Conversation, the Basic Income UK and the CPPLG on UBI. These organisations are contacting every candidate in each race over the coming weeks.

The widespread economic insecurity caused by coronavirus has seen interest in Universal Basic Income – which creates an ‘income floor’ that nobody can fall below – skyrocket over the course of the year.

18 local councils across the UK have now passed motions calling for Universal Basic Income trials in their communities, with most of them making the move since the start of the pandemic.

In October, 520 politicians from across the UK, including MPs, peers, councillors and members of all three devolved assemblies, wrote to the Chancellor asking him to cooperate with councils that have asked to run UBI pilots.

In September, the Welsh Parliament passed a motion put forward by Labour members supporting the principle of a UBI pilot in Wales.

In November at a People’s Powerhouse event, Steve Rotheram (Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region), Andy Burnham (Mayor of Greater Manchester) and Jamie Driscoll (Metro Mayor of the North of Tyne) all expressed support for trials after being asked about UBI by the UBI Lab Network.

The Scottish Government recently completed a two-year, £250,000 feasibility study into the possibility of launching UBI trials, which found that any major pilot in the UK would require cooperation from the DWP and HMRC.

The four organisations behind this project believe directly-elected mayors are ideally positioned to lobby government for the powers needed to hold a pilot and test an alternative to the welfare system which is failing their communities.

A recent modelling exercise found that the UK could “easily afford” a Universal Basic Income that could “virtually eliminate poverty”.

What is UBI?

UBI is a regular and unconditional payment given to everybody regardless of their income, wealth or employment status. Proposals range from £50 per week for every adult to over £100 per week for every adult and child.

Supporters believe that a UBI would guarantee everyone the right to basic financial security by providing a regular income boost for millions in Britain.

They also believe that it would give people more freedom to pursue education and training later in life, start a business, or take time out to care for a loved one without facing financial penalties.

A UBI trial in Finland showed improved mental health for participants. It also found that the recipients of a UBI spent more days in employment on average compared to the control group, debunking the myth that a UBI would discourage work.

A modest UBI scheme already exists in Alaska, where all citizens receive an annual dividend of around $2,000 a year from the state’s oil profits.

At Easter Pope Francis wrote: “This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage.” He continued: “It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights.”

In his latest book, Pope Francis wrote: [A UBI] would give people the basic security they need, remove the stigma of welfarism, and make it easier to move between jobs as technology-driven labor patterns increasingly demand. Policies like the UBI can also help free people to combine earning wages with giving time to the community.”

All UBI proposals keep Housing Benefit and disability benefits. Many UBI proposals replace Child Benefit with a more generous UBI for children.

Most UBI proposals replace some means-tested benefits like Jobseeker’s Allowance and tax credits. All serious UBI proposals would make lower and middle income households better off.

Sian Berry, Green Party candidate for Mayor of London, said:

“We have all seen the impact of the holes built into the government’s safety nets this year. Millions have received no help from government support packages, and have faced misery, poverty and homelessness. As Green candidate for Mayor of London, I’m proud to pledge my support for a Universal Basic Income. I’ve already taken this idea to the London Assembly, and I’ll keep championing it as Mayor. Every region needs to push just as hard to be part of this because everybody deserves a minimum standard of protection through this immediate crisis and in the future. It’s an idea whose time has come.”

Barb Jacobson, Basic Income UK, said:

“A basic income is necessary in this time of increasing insecurity. It provides a secure floor everyone can build their lives upon and would be a huge boost for local economies and small businesses. It would ease the chronic stress so many feel right now, along with the health and societal impact of this stress.”

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