Nick Writes: On the Universal Basic Income

UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME

Today the Green Party has lanuched its Universal Basic Income policy.

Parliamentary canidate for the Hexham constituency Nick Morphet explains what this means.

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Universal Basic Income is a regular payment made to every citizen, enough to cover their basic needs and regardless of means. The Green Party has championed the idea since the 1970s, but it will be included in the fully costed 2019 general election manifesto for the very first time.

A Universal Basic Income will make all our lives better, and nobody will find themselves worse off. It will lift the curses of poverty, stress, debt, unemployment and job insecurity. It will tackle inequality and take the sting out of the loss of jobs to automation. It will break the cycle of production and consumption, helping us to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises.

It will give us the freedom to do what we want to do – no longer enslaved to market or state – and the agency to say “no” to undesirable or environmentally damaging work. The Basic Income is a superior public good – we will benefit collectively as well as individually. Basic Income trials have led to higher educational attainment, lower healthcare costs, greater levels of entrepreneurship and higher levels of self-reported happiness. Work that previously went unpaid and unrecognised, such as caring for elderly or disabled friends or relatives, will finally receive the recognition and reward that it deserves.

Universal Basic Income has been called the ‘Green New Deal for incomes’ – it is one of the ways we will make sure that nobody slips through the net when the Green New Deal is implemented.

Universal Basic Income will be phased in over ten years. It will replace Universal Credit, Job Seeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Benefit, the State Pension and tax credit. Housing, Disability, Sickness and Maternity Benefit will be maintained, as will the Carer’s Allowance. Every adult in the UK will then receive a Basic Income of £86 per week (in 2019 prices), regardless of income or wealth. Pensioners will receive £175 per week, with a £25 supplement if they live alone. Single parents will receive a weekly supplement of £86 and there will be a weekly payment of £67.50 for each child in the family (reduced to £50 for third and subsequent children). Those on lower incomes will no longer have to prove that they qualify for payments, and there will be no long phone calls or forms to fill in. This is one of the reasons that the Basic Income can be so conducive to better health.

Despite not being means tested, Universal Basic Income will still benefit those on lower incomes proportionally more than those on higher incomes. For example, a single person household with an income of less than £10,000 per year will be 17 to 45% better off under a Basic Income, while a single person household with an income in excess of £10,000 will only be 3 to 7% better off. A two parent/two child household earning up to £50,000 (in total) would be 13 to 41% better off, and pensioners will see their income increase by between 19 and 37%.

Universal Basic Income will cost the government £354 billion per year. The bulk of this money (£286 billion) will be generated by the scrapping of benefits, tax credits and the State Pension. A further £41 billion will come from a tax on polluters (a carbon tax), and the remaining £27 billion will come from general taxation. The Green Party will introduce a fair, redistributive tax system which will generate significant revenue by taxing excessive wealth and assets such as land. Further revenue will be generated by a crack-down on tax avoidance. The result will be a redistribution of wealth that will make our society healthier, happier and more equal.