Petition seeks trial of ‘universal basic income’ policy in Brighton and Hove

Almost 2,000 people have signed a petition in support of a “universal basic income” trial in Brighton and Hove.

They want the backing of Brighton and Hove City Council as part of their campaign to guarantee a minimum standard of living for everyone.

Their petition is due to be presented to a “virtual” meeting of the full council next Thursday (22 October).

And last night (Thursday 15 October) some of them took part in a “virtual” public meeting to explain, discuss and promote the idea.

The aim of the policy is to ensure that people receive enough money to provide for their basic needs without any conditions.

At the meeting last night Bath University research fellow Neil Howard said that the concept gave people dignity.

He based his opinion on findings from trials in India, America, South Africa and Finland.

He said: “The shame and stigma that attaches to traditional welfare or benefits systems are basically washed away because these are conditional and give people the message that they don’t deserve them.

“A basic income in principle is given to everybody by virtue of being human. There’s an element of mattering ultimately. That leads to a stake in the social system.”

He said that people would continue to work and could even be more productive if they did not have to worry about having the money to pay for their basic needs.

Dr Howard said that a basic income gave people a floor to stand on rather than a safety net they might fall through.

This was especially the case when they had precarious employment such as freelance work, zero-hours contracts or seasonal work.

Dr Howard said that the policy would be funded by requiring the rich to pay more tax.

He said: “We take the tax base as given, which is scandalous in a world of colossal wealth, staggering inequality and really inefficient and unjust tax collection.

“The core reality is there is a load of money out there that is being stashed away, that our government and other governments are not accessing, while people are jetting around to their yachts in the Caribbean.”

Maggie Gordon-Walker

Brighton campaigner Maggie Gordon-Walker, who founded Basic Income South East, is due to present the petition to the council next Thursday.

She said that a basic income would help parents who worked part-time to share childcare, rather than working long, full-time hours to pay for someone else to raise their child.

It would also allow people to volunteer, she said, pointing to the response at the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

She added: “When the NHS asked for volunteers, they were swamped. It shows to my mind that the British have a sense of fair play.

“It might have got a little bit lost in the political shenanigans but everyone deserves a fair chance. Something like this shows everyone is equal.”

She said that a pilot scheme would show how people’s mental health would improve and put less stress on services which she described as “at breaking point”.

The money would also go into the economy, rather than be “stashed under the bed”, she said.

Councillor Martin Osborne

Green councillor Martin Osborne supports the idea of a trial which would need government backing. He said: “There are various different ways you can change taxes and raise money.

“It can work. It is quite costly but it is affordable if you collect tax in the right way.”

The meeting of the full council is scheduled to start at 4.30pm next Thursday (22 October) and is due to be webcast on the council’s website.

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