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Norwich City Council have unanimously passed a motion calling on the government to trial a fully-evaluated Universal Basic Income (UBI) in the area in response to the economic shock of the ongoing pandemic.
The Labour-led authority passed the proposal put forward by the Green Party on Tuesday night, and leaders of all parties on the council will now write to the Government to ask for permission to pilot the scheme.
Council leaders will also write to the Good Economy Commission for Norwich and ask them to examine whether a UBI could be a potential component of a fairer economy in the city in the future.
The motion was initially put forward by Green Party Councillor Jamie Osborn, a co-founder of the Norfolk branch of UBI Lab – an organisation with branches in several areas of the country, including Liverpool, Birmingham and Sheffield, who advocate implementing a Universal Basic Income for all.
If accepted, the UBI trial would involve each citizen in Norwich receiving a non-means tested monthly income to cover the basic costs of living.
Proposals for UBI range from £50 a week per adult to £100 a week for an adult and child.
Supporters of UBI claim that implementing a non-means tested basic income would reduce poverty and improve equality whilst allowing the government to significantly reduce the amount of taxpayer money spent on unnecessary bureaucracy.
Many advocates also argue that if taxes were incrementally increased for those who earn enough, or hold enough wealth or assets not to require such an extra income, the scheme could actually end up costing less than the current means-tested welfare system.
Supporters of UBI also believe that it would significantly improve the current welfare system by allowing people more freedom to pursue education and training later in life, start a business, or take time out to care for a loved one without facing financial penalties.
According to UBI Labs:
“A UBI trial in Finland showed improved mental health for participants. It also found that the recipients of a UBI spent more days in employment on average compared to the control group.”
“A modest UBI scheme already exists in Alaska, where all citizens receive an annual dividend of around $2,000 a year from the state’s oil profits.”
Norwich has seen claims for Universal Credit more than double from March 2019 to March 2020, and it is expected that this figure will only increase further as a result of the economic shock of the current pandemic.
Speaking following Norwich Council’s approval of the motion, Green Party peer Natalie Bennett said:
“The economic crisis is only just getting started, but the Government is already turning its back on millions of people. The furlough scheme is winding down, and job losses have started gushing like a burst pipe, with hundreds of livelihoods down the drain every single day.
“We need a universal basic income to ensure that nobody is left high and dry. By ensuring that every single one of us has enough to meet our basic needs, we have a better chance of weathering this storm together.”
“The Government should agree to this trial in Norwich so they can see for themselves how effective it will be.”
Whilst Green Party Councillor Jamie Osborn, who first proposed the successful motion, stated:
“I’m delighted that Norwich councillors have today unanimously supported the Green Party proposal for a Universal Basic Income. Even before lockdown I was appalled by the number of people in my ward who were humiliated and excluded by our current benefits system, and that number is only going up.”
“But this motion is also about looking longer-term at the kind of society we want. A Universal Basic Income would mean people can spend more time on education and training, or starting their own business, and it would be vital for the arts. With this motion Norwich has recognised the society-wide benefits of a UBI, and we’ll now be working with other local and national organisations to get the Government to listen.”
UBI Labs was born out of Sheffield’s Festival of Debate, which is run by not-for-profit social enterprise Opus Independents – and anyone, anywhere in the world, is free to start their own UBI Lab in their own community.
However, the motion passed by Norwich council this week is the first to be passed specifically as a response to the economic effects of the ongoing pandemic.