OPINION

Build back better with a universal basic income

Posted On 30 Nov 2020 at 2:41 pm

The immediate shockwaves of the coronavirus pandemic were profound, with the government locking down the country and putting together an unprecedented package of economic and financial support.

But even though millions of people received support, millions of others have been excluded from help including artists, the recently self-employed and renters.

Tenants might have been given temporary protection from eviction but they received no financial support in an already unaffordable housing market.

What these excluded millions have experienced is – perhaps some for the first time – what life is like for many of those who live in constant economic insecurity.

If they didn’t understand how stressful it can be wrapped up in a means-tested system, they do now.

If they didn’t grasp just how detrimental to mental health and wellbeing relying on food banks and handouts is, they do now.

If they couldn’t fathom why people have been so angry with this government and its decade of austerity and disillusioned by politics in general, they do now.

If they didn’t recognise how our current levels of welfare are woefully short of where they need to be, they do now.

A much better and fairer solution would have been to make it easier for people who are struggling by bringing in a much simpler “universal basic income” to cover everyone’s needs.

This would mean the provision of a level of secure and direct payment as the only way to ensure that everyone is covered. This is the only way to ensure fairness.

Of course, we mustn’t lose focus on the fact that economic insecurity is a day-to-day reality for many who have long been deliberately targeted by this government even before the pandemic.

However, imagine a world where instead of bailing out the banks, supporting corporations with tax cuts and 10 years of austerity that has disproportionately fallen on the poorest, we had had a basic income to support our needs.

We would have built up a greater level of individual economic resilience and all our lives would be all the better for it.

We can’t change the past but as we build back better, we must ensure that we lay the foundations of the new normal by first addressing people’s economic needs.

A guaranteed income floor, providing a reliable platform for all is what we need, rather than a conditional welfare system that lets people fall through the gaps in the safety net.

Councillor Martin Osborne

Brighton and Hove City Council has now voted to ask government to give proper consideration to a trial of basic income – so that we can pull together the evidence that will demonstrate how a universal basic income works.

Thousands have signed a petition in support of universal basic income locally – supported not least by the energetic Basic Income South East group.

And Lewes District Council is among a growing number of other local authorities that back the idea.

It has always been the time for a basic income but perhaps now, more than ever before, as we find ways to cope with a second national lockdown, the public might fully understand why.

Economic security is a right we all deserve so let’s keep up the fight for universalism and a basic income – and a life truly free from the depths of poverty.

Martin Osborne is a Green councillor and a core founder of Basic Income South East. He represents Hollingdean and Stanmer on Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Nick Reply

    Worrying to have a councillor that is so naive. Yes, of course everyone would like to have an income so that we don’t have to work. But who would pay for it? And why, with various trials in a number of countries over decades, has no area adopted this?

    There can never be enough money to pay for this as so many would choose not to work. And if the level was made uncomfortable to prevent this, then so many who couldn’t work would suffer. We need to target help otherwise it is too small.

    Yes, we need a safety net. Now more than ever. But why not try to fix this rather than dream of something which cannot be? Such dreams are OK for some – but the council has many, many things to look at and resolve. So really should focus on the day job!

  2. Nigel Furness Reply

    Agreed, Nick.
    This naive, woke nonsense is on a par with the late John Lennon’s “Imagine” video where, as he sings: “Imagine there’s no money,” wife Yoko Ono is busily engaged in drawing the drapes at the windows to reveal the magnificent drawing room of their Ascot mansion, set in the midst of an enormous Berkshire estate—and all without a hint of IRONY! Talk about HYPOCRICY ON STEROIDS—you honestly couldn’t make this lot up, could you?
    You’ve also nailed it when you say that councillors should: “Focus on the day job,” but the trouble is that most of those in the ‘Coalition’ are labouring under the misapprehension that they’re ‘running,’ if one may call it that, the ‘PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF BRIGHTON & HOVE,’ so little wonder our ‘City’ finds it’s self in such a parlous state—too much politics on the Rates!

  3. Paul F Williams Reply

    ‘Build back better’ is a Great Reset quote used across media internationally. (look it up).
    Well done Martin Osborne. You have just outed youself as a globalist shill trying to sell this country down the river towards total collapse and ultimate one-world government aka communism with a Green face (and a subsistence level of universal basic income to keep the new slave class compliant).
    Well here’s news for you. The Patriots are going to win and you (and your kind) are going to be out on your ear! Klaus and his WEF plans are on the way out.
    People are waking up now and waking up fast as to what is REALLY going on behind the scenes.
    You can stick your new world order up your never mind.

    • Nigel Furness Reply

      Brilliant anaysis, Paul
      As I’ve said before, given enough rope, those ‘Greens’ will soon hang themselves and, obligingly, they’ve lost no time in proving me RIGHT!
      I’m taking no crumbs of comfort from this though because, unless the sient majority are prepared to put in the work required to hold this shambolic Administration to account, I fear there may be precious little left of our City worth saving.
      My single, biggest concern is how much longer can we afford to subsidise that ‘GREEN ELEPHANT,’ the i360 and, what happens when we can’t?
      Seeing as the debt relating to the monstrosity is owed to the Government, I can see bankruptcy proceedings looming on the horizon which will likely result in Direct Rule from Westminster unless, of course, myself and my colleagues are able, instead, to
      persuade the relevant authorities to pursue those responsible for this situation—ALL the ‘GREEN’ Councillors from their previous Administration (some of them still in office) plus their TORY (not all) collaborators, who REALLY should have known better, along with any COUNCIL OFFICERS who gave erroneous advice to them— to jointly and severally cough-up the £40-odd MILLION! upon pain of SEQUESTRATION!
      Don’t let them get away with it!!

  4. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    Martin Osbourne is correct to posit this. Society is changing rapidly, as we have seen during the pandemic, when many have come to realise that they do not need to work all hours to buy things they do not need in order to have a good life.

    Human life is but 27,000 days – and, such is relativity, they go by at an increasing speed. As Keynes said, “in the long run we’re all dead”.The means to support a fulfilled life in that brief span becomes all the more crucial as jobs are automated. It is similkar to the establishment of the NHS in 1945.

    Such a system as cllr Osbourne suggests (and many others are doing so) could operate in tandem with economy-boosting measures to control the climate emergency: solar tiles will soon be as cheap as concrete tiles and able to power homes (as well as be installed in conservation areas as they look like slate tiles).

    Many will not live to see this, but it is essential to sustained life on the planet where we find ourselves (rather than being a microbe on Mars, although perhaps such microbes are happy with their lot).

  5. Rostrum Reply

    Magic money tree will provide for all…..

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