A COUNCIL in Somerset could host a Universal Basic Income (UBI) trial, in a bid to beat poverty and equality.
The motion was brought to Mendip District Council’s full council on Monday (February 22) by Leader of the Green Party, councillor Shane Collins.
A UBI offers a non-means-tested fixed sum paid by the state to cover the basic cost of living, which is issued to all residents regardless of whether they work, or are unemployed, or are rich or poor.
The radical proposal has been widely debated across the UK in recent months. And at a meeting of Somerset County Council’s full council meeting on Wednesday, February 17, councillors voted against taking part in the trial.
However, MDC councillors believe the trial will tackle the inevitable impacts on employment prospects and household incomes following fall-out from the Covid pandemic and other factors such as Brexit, future automation and artificial intelligence.
Cllr Collins said: “In a time of Covid, Brexit, Artificial Intelligence, the gig economy and Climate Emergency, the amount of paid jobs are shrinking and with 5.8 million people on Universal Credit and often falling through the net, now is the time for a UBI trial in Mendip.
“UBI for all would simplify and replace benefits such as Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits and work alongside housing benefit and carers allowance, with additional UBI payments for groups of people who experience barriers to working, including disabled people, single parents and people of pension age.
“UBI would also offer basic financial security for all people at a time when it is needed more than ever.”
However, some councillors did not support the motion.
Cllr Tom Killen, conservative party group leader, said he felt the introduction of the UBI “could come at an unsustainable cost and could lead to dramatic unintended consequences”.
“The introduction of the UBI could penalise those who everyone hopes to help and who may actually suffer a fall in income,” he added.
“I feel uncomfortable paying money to everyone regardless of wealth. This could lead to inflation, cancelling any gains, and could lead to difficulties for businesses as work may be seen as optional for some.”
The motion having been carried, Mendip District Council’s Chief Executive, Stuart Brown, and Cllr Wyke will now draft a joint letter, alongside the other party leaders, to open up a dialogue with the Government and urge them to consider Mendip for a UBI pilot scheme.
Cllr Ros Wyke added: “Certainly our economy is fragile as we come out of Covid, and the impact on people will be felt right across the board.
“I do believe our society is changing, and given its history of social innovation, wealth of expertise, and active networks across community, business and public services, Mendip is ideally placed to pilot a UBI.”