Sheffield Labour councillors back Universal Basic Income pilot in the city

Sheffield City Council has this week passed a Labour motion that gives its support to a pilot of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in the city.

UBI is a radical reform that would see every citizen given a guaranteed income regardless of their employment status. 

This follows from comments made by the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell that the next Labour government may look to pilot UBI in selected areas, and Sheffield could be one of the cities considered.

The cost of any future Sheffield pilot would be met entirely by an external funder, and not by Sheffield City Council.

Speaking about the council’s backing for a pilot scheme in Sheffield Council Leader Julie Dore said:

 “UBI has the potential to be a bold, radical change to how our economy and society works with benefits for peoples wellbeing and how we support people in need. Credit must go UBI lab Sheffield for all the work they have done to push Sheffield to the forefront of the national debate on this issue.  As automation plays a bigger and bigger role in the workplace this will inevitably lead to huge changes, and in order to face-up to these realities I think it is completely right that radical solutions are considered.

“This is why this Sheffield City Council welcomes Labour’s suggestion that Sheffield could trial a pilot of Universal Basic Income. As a council we are getting behind this and committing to looking at this further and working with a Labour government in trialling this”.

The move was tabled by Walkley ward councillor, Cllr Ben Curran, who commented in the council chamber that “UBI has the potential to contribute to our economy but, importantly, as the Finnish experience shows, it can contribute to improved welfare outcomes as well.”

He added, “Our welfare system is fundamentally broken. This presents not only the opportunity to improve things but the chance to fundamentally rethink the system so that the economy and wellbeing are both intrinsically built into it. Universal Income is an idea whose time has come. Our city has a proud history of leading the way on radical thinking in this country. Let’s continue in that tradition, get behind Universal Basic Income & clearly demonstrate the ambitions we have for local people”.

Councillor Olivia Blake, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Governance:

“I am delighted that Sheffield is being seriously considered for a pilot by a future Labour government. This is something we have been actively encouraging.

“John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, singled Sheffield out for the work on the Living Wage and anti-poverty campaigning and noted that we would be ideally placed for a trial. It is fantastic that such schemes could be trailed by a Labour government – and I am inviting John McDonnell to come up to Sheffield so we can discuss these radical proposals further”.

Jason Leman, Chair of UBI Lab Sheffield, said: “Sheffield has a long history of leading radical change, from the Chartists through to the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire. We don’t know if a Universal Basic Income is the answer to the problems we face, but a pilot will give us the much-needed evidence about what works.

“Having a real safety net seems to help people’s health and wellbeing. It helps people who are looking after their family and it could also give people the confidence to retrain, volunteer or become entrepreneurs.”

Sam Walby, Director at Opus Independents, one of the founders of the UBI Lab Sheffield group, said: “Today’s announcement is a validation of the tireless campaigning and advocacy that UBI Lab Sheffield has been doing since the group was formed at Festival of Debate 2017.

“No one is saying a UBI would solve all our problems, but with serious challenges like the automation of the workforce on the horizon, as well as blatant injustices and inequalities within the current benefits system, we need to be testing the effects of UBI right now.

“It’s an idea whose time has come.”

1 COMMENT

  1. What’s better than an unconditional Basic Income (BI)? A reduction in rents! Why? Because:
    (1) Nobody asks how we’re going to pay lower rents!
    (2) By definition, the benefit of lower rents isn’t competed away in higher rents — as a BI would be. (You don’t see this problem with “pilot” basic incomes; but you *will* see it if the BI becomes universal.)
    (3) Jobs can’t exist unless (a) the employers can afford business accommodation, and (b) the employees can afford housing within reach of their jobs, on wages that employers can pay. Lower rents therefore create jobs — reducing the need for a BI.
    (4) If lower rents don’t serve *all* the purposes of a BI, they reduce the size and cost of the BI needed to serve the remaining purposes.

    And how do we reduce rents? Impose rent control? NO!! That makes it less attractive to supply accommodation. But a tax on vacant lots and unoccupied buildings makes it less attractive NOT to supply accommodation! A vacant-property tax of $X/week makes it $X/week more expensive to fail to get a tenant, and thereby REDUCES, by $X/week, the minimum rent that will persuade the owner to accept a tenant. Better still, the economic activity driven by *avoidance* of that tax would broaden the bases of other taxes, allowing their rates to be reduced — offsetting the tax impact of a BI, if you still want one!

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