Let’s test ‘universal basic income’ in Brighton and Hove, say councillors

Councillors have welcomed a petition calling for a trial of universal basic income.

The petition was presented by Basic Income South East campaigner Maggie Gordon-Walker at a “virtual” meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council yesterday (Thursday 22 October).

The ruling Greens and the Labour opposition agreed to ask the government to support a trial of the proposal in Brighton and Hove.

Ms Gordon-Walker presented her petition, with 2,308 signatures, to a meeting of the full council.

She said that universal basic income provided people with a floor to stand on rather than a safety net full of holes that people could fall through. And it would give everyone the same amount of money, without conditions.

Green councillor Martin Osborne said that the council’s chief executive Geoff Raw should ask the Chancellor to allow the council to carry out a feasibility study.

Councillor Osborne said that people were surviving from pay cheque to pay cheque, with parents choosing to feed their children while going without themselves to ensure that they could heat their home.

He said: “There are now 14 million people in poverty in the UK, four million of whom are in extreme poverty or destitution. This should not be the case in the fifth richest country in the world.”

He said that most were in working households and those who were not in work were trapped in a conditional benefits system.

Fellow Green councillor Tom Druitt said that universal basic income was a long-term Green Party policy and he “wholeheartedly supported” the petition.

He said: “If the council agrees to progress action on universal basic income, the more councils that do this across the country, the more pressure we can put on the government to at least do a trial.

“We’re not saying this is going to work. There are a few things that have to be worked out. But we believe it does work and it will work and we want to see a trial so that we can see the results.

“It’s no point in arguing the pros and cons in a council chamber. Let’s do a trial. Let’s see what the effects are in practice.”

Labour councillor Gill Williams backed the idea, saying that before the coronavirus crisis she could see the benefits system was failing due to lack of funding.

Maggie Gordon-Walker

Councillor Williams said: “This crisis has exacerbated the need for a radical alternative and this concept may well be it.

“There are going be widespread job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. This has led to a renewed interest in this idea. Maybe it is time to get radical.”

Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh said that was working on a basic income scheme in an African country in her professional life.

But she voted against further discussion of the concept by the council’s Policy and Resources Committee because she said that councillors should focus on “immediate challenges not abstract national issues”.

She said: “To be honest, the reputation of our city, in my opinion, is in tatters and I would like to see the council take a low profile when it comes to controversial national issues.

“The Policy and Resources Committee should be spending as much time as possible focused on protecting and rebuilding the city’s economy and working out how to fill the huge covid hole in the budget.”

Councillor Alistair McNair

Conservative councillor Alistair McNair also spoke against the proposal and said that the prospect of a universal basic income was both dystopian and utopian.

He said that giving people £1,200 a month would allow them to become artists, poets or “historic dress enthusiasts”, knowing that they have a safety net.

But it would also mean redundancies for public sector workers, stagnating wages and increased prices.

Councillor McNair said: “Many very small and very flawed studies have been made of universal basic income.

“Surely Brighton and Hove should offer itself up as a patient. Aren’t we already etherised upon the table ready for this magic potion?

“One outcome – Brighton and Hove will become even more unaffordable.”

After a vote, Ms Gordon-Walker said: “It’s great that the council have committed to write to the government to ask for a trial.

“Parliament will undoubtedly say ‘no’ yet we can see from the bailouts and furlough schemes that they can spend when they want to.

“Our benefits system is costly and ineffective. People are literally dying under austerity measures. A live-able income would transform our society for everyone. We all deserve the means to live.”

  1. Joyce Ireson Reply

    At last less dithering & someone who actually realises it makes more sense by giving it a chance instead of singling out negative trials.

  2. Christian Reply

    What about poeple on benifit s will they but us on the system then or not

    • Richard Reply

      Hi, a basic income would replace all benefits except those for disability and housing.

  3. Maija Reply

    I guess that £1200 would be a good for thoses who are out of work.For thoses who are preretirement age struggling to find the job.This money could cover bills,rentc.tax payments+same rest of money to buy food.The goverment will do a good job to support people this way during the pandemic.

  4. David Reply

    I’d like to be on this trial please

  5. CHRISTINE HAYLETT Reply

    I can’t start a business to improve my life because the current benefits system put at great risk if it fails. I want to be able to take chances but I can’t due to the system. A universal income would fix this.
    Please get the message out across the whole country, I would vote for this.

  6. MaxH Reply

    An unconditional UBI should apply to every UK citizen from age 21 for life. It’ll be cheaper in the long term than an ineffective benefits system. It’ll eliminate all other benefits and benefit fraud. It’ll support and enable entrepreneurialism creating new businesses, new jobs, new tax contributions. Fix income tax at 18% and remove personal allowance. It’ll end tax avoidance. Every has equal opportunity to live a great life. Corporates must pay livable wages ahead of shareholder dividends and management bonuses. Likewise, Tax loop holes must be shut down and corporates to pay their tax due to support UBI and the Country they are earning their profits from. UBI can be made to work if it’s kept simple, fair and supported by profit rich employers and a flat rate, simplified tax regime. IMHO

    • Richard High Reply

      Max, current “plans” envisage paying everyone over the age of 18, with an allowance per child.

  7. Nathan Adler Reply

    Absolutely pathetic, even the sponsor of the petition admitted the government will never sanction this. What a waste of our councils time to even debate this, pure student politics and those that encouraged this and supported it – planks.

    • Richard Reply

      For the Gov’t to support and implement this would need a change in the law, so that’s what we’ll be working towards next, alongside working out what a pilot would look like in Brighton. The only party in the UK parliament not not back either basic income as a policy, or pilots, is the Conservatives, which is the major block to any meaningful change in the current, means tested and punitive benefits system.
      Worth noting Basic Income is not an idea of the left, or right – both have looked at and supported the idea, not just students 😊

  8. James Reply

    Funny how the council listen to people on a topic they like but ignore the residents when it suits them e.g. the bike lane consultation.
    Another example… Nearly twice the amount of residents signed this petition a while ago saying they had no confidence in the council.
    https://www.change.org/p/brighton-and-hove-council-no-confidence-in-brighton-and-hove-council

    • Richard High Reply

      Hi James, not everyone on the council supported this. It is Green policy (and SNP, Plaid, Alliance and Lib Dem too), with Lab only committing to “look at pilots” in their last manifesto.

  9. Donna Grech Reply

    Yes I believe this could help a lot of people

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