Tonight, I joined the inaugural meeting of the UBILab Hastings – becoming part of the growing network of people nationwide, looking into how Universal Basic Income might be made to work for all of us.
The idea is to provide a stable, economic floor through which no-one is allowed to fall. The UBILab networks include a range of specialist groups which, it seems to me, are steadily addressing and finding answers to the doubts many people have. For example,
Does it cost too much?
No, because one way or another, poverty costs our government around £90 BILLION a year. UBI would not only cost less than the government currently spends dealing with the consequences of poverty and destitution, and less than running all those DWP systems that in fact fail to keep everyone safe from destitution, it would also vastly reduce the costs of poverty – by vastly reducing poverty.
What about people who need more?
UBILabs have a dedicated disability group, working out what separate, ring-fenced benefits need to be in place to cover people with complex or expensive needs due to medical conditions and other specific issues. It’s not difficult to do.
I don’t see why we should give money to rich people
That’s not what would happen – if we kept a progressive tax system in place, rich people would automatically be paying more in tax than they’d get from UBI – but everyone who *needed* it would benefit.
My union doesn’t approve
The world is changing. Think of all the people who were driven into difficulty and danger during the COVID lockdowns. That experience has made many more people join in discussions about UBI. As has the realisation that our current economic system is broken, and that there really is no security in any kind of work for most people, any more.
Those on the left who worry that this is just another way to let low-paying employers off the hook are coming round to the idea. In the past, I heard so many people say ‘it’s not socialism’ but doesn’t that depend who is doing it, and how we do it? Maybe with enough of us on board, this could become the people’s UBI plan. It is, as tonight’s speaker, Jonny Douglas said, ‘an enabler, not a panacea’ – we would have to hold the government to their responsibility to regulate tax, wages, and other economic factors, so that everything worked together – but given the security and extra financial elbow-room UBI provides, we’d have plenty of people with time to work on those developments.
I’m not sure it’s true the left as a whole don’t like the idea though – during the Corbyn years, when the Labour Party was buzzing with socialists, UBI was a big topic at conference, with packed rooms wherever it was discussed.
What’s different about this scheme? It’s not just a campaign group, it’s a study group. Among the 40 UBILab groups currently working within the scheme are specialist groups addressing all the issues people have raised, as well as groups such as the women’s group – looking at the potential benefits (or drawbacks) for specific sectors of society.
Wales and Scotland are both way ahead of England at the moment, but more and more councillors, MPs and other elected officials are signing up to the idea. There are discussions going on in London, and the plan for a UBI scheme for the city has been presented to the London Assembly scrutiny committee. Watch this space!
We in Hastings have council elections coming up – why not ask your council candidates to sign up to UBILab Hastings?
Here’s an article by Cllr Ruby Cox about Hastings and UBI…
Here’s the UBILabs Network YouTube channel
And here’s the UBILab Hastings Facebook page.
See you, probably in May, for UBILab Hastings meeting two!
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