Council could support a Universal Basic Income Pilot in Norwich

16 July 2020

Council could support a Universal Basic Income Pilot in Norwich

Every citizen of Norwich could receive a monthly income that would cover the basic costs of living, a motion to Norwich City Council has proposed.

 

The Green Party motion, which will be debated next Tuesday 21 July, asks the city council to back a pilot of a Universal Basic Income, or UBI, which is paid to all citizens individually, regardless of employment status, wealth, or marital status.[1] Greens say this is the fairest and most effective way to mitigate the effects of coronavirus on people’s incomes and support an economic recovery that leaves no one behind in the long term.

 

The last year has seen the number of people claiming the Universal Credit benefit in Norwich more than double, from just over 3,000 in March 2019 to more than 7,200 in March 2020. [2] Coronavirus is likely to have a significant further impact on that figure, with a string of job losses announced in recent weeks. [3]

 

Advocates of a UBI say the current means-tested benefits system is inefficient and full of loopholes that mean many people are denied support. They argue a UBI would provide financial security for everyone, would help people who are doing work that is currently unpaid, such as caring for relatives or friends, and would boost businesses, particularly small and independent businesses.

 

In May, Green Party councillor Jamie Osborn set up UBI Lab Norfolk as the local branch of a national campaign in support of UBI. [4] Now, he hopes that a UBI will be part of Norwich’s economic future.

 

Councillor Osborn said, "Universal Credit and now the impact of covid have hit Norwich hard: more and more people have been saying to me that they fear for the future. A Universal Basic Income would not only provide security, it would mean hope for thousands of people in the city who have been excluded by benefits stigma and sanctions.

"Norwich is also such a vibrant city with a unique arts scene and amazing community networks, and a UBI would support that. I see a lot of hope in the way that this idea is being taken on."

 

Green Party councillor, Lesley Grahame, who is seconding the motion, said: “Our current social security system restricts people’s choices and makes it difficult if not impossible to live anything approaching a dignified life. A UBI would be fair across generations and individuals’ circumstances and would allow people to try things, including new enterprises that stimulate the local economy.”

 

 

Further information:

Councillor Jamie Osborn                     07975 881585                         jajo.osborn@gmail.com

 

Notes:

The Green Party Group on Norwich City Council forms the council’s main opposition and consists of eight councillors.

1) The full text of the motion submitted to Norwich City Council’s full council meeting is below.

2) https://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/news/business/universal-credit-claims-soar-in-coroanvirus-lockdown-1-6655681

3) Jobs losses have been announced at the Norwich Theatre Royal: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-53251697; Debenhams: https://www.edp24.co.uk/business/debenhams-in-orford-place-norwich-makes-job-losses-before-reopening-1-6676692; DFS: https://www.edp24.co.uk/business/debenhams-in-orford-place-norwich-makes-job-losses-before-reopening-1-6676692; Jarrold’s: https://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/news/business/department-store-jarrold-announces-it-is-making-redundancies-1-6706767 and elsewhere.

4) https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/politics/norwich-city-council-jamie-osborn-universal-basic-income-virus-economic-recovery-1-6654033

 

Text of the motion proposed by Cllr Jamie Osborn and seconded by Cllr Lesley Grahame:

 

A Universal Basic Income is a non-means-tested sum paid by the state to cover the basic cost of living, which is paid to all citizens individually, regardless of employment status, wealth, or marital status, which has been widely debated in recent months. Advocates argue it is the fairest, most effective way to mitigate the effects of coronavirus on people’s incomes. A network of Universal Basic Income Labs has been set up and works with local authorities across the UK developing UBI proposals to address problems such as poverty, inequality, discrimination and environmental damage, long-term and immediately, in relation to coronavirus.

 

This Council resolves to ask the leaders of political groups on the council to write to the Good Economy Commission for Norwich, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the leader of the party in Government, their counterparts in all opposition political parties in parliament, all Norwich MPs, and to Norfolk County Council to express the following:

 

1) That the current benefit system is failing citizens, with Universal Credit causing hardship to many communities in Norwich;

2) There is a danger of increasing numbers of people facing poverty as a result of the coronavirus crisis;

3) Testing a UBI is needed, as a UBI has the potential to help address key challenges such as inequality, poverty, precarious employment, loss of community, and breach of planetary boundaries through:

i) Giving employers a more flexible workforce whilst giving employees greater freedom to change their jobs;

ii) Valuing unpaid work, such as caring for family members and voluntary work;

iii) Removing the negative impacts of benefit sanctions and conditionality; and

iv) Giving people more equal resources within the family, workplace and society;

v) Breaking the link between work and consumption, thus helping reduce strain on the environment;

vi) Enabling greater opportunities for people to work in community and cultural activities or to train or reskill in areas that will be needed to transition to a lower-carbon economy.

4) The success of a UBI pilot should not be measured only by impact upon take-up of paid work, but also the impact upon communities and what the people within them do, how they feel, and how they relate to others and the environment around them; and

5) Given its history of social innovation, wealth of expertise, and active networks across community, business and public services, Norwich is ideally placed to pilot a UBI.






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