York councillors to vote on bid to trial Universal Basic Income

York could be set to become Yorkshire’s fourth city to call for pilots of Universal Basic Income (UBI).

York could be set to become Yorkshire’s fourth city to call for pilots of Universal Basic Income (UBI).

Green Party councillors, who share control of City of York Council with the Liberal Democrats, submitted a motion supporting trials of basic income at the March meeting but it was never held because of the Covid crisis, which has halted full council meetings until now.

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The meeting on Thursday is expected to pass a Lib Dem sponsored motion calling on the Government to support a UBI trial.

Saturday shoppers on Front Street in the Acomb suburb of York which is now in Tier 2 of coronavirus restrictions. Photo: PA

This would make York the tenth council in the UK to make the call, but the Government has so far rejected the idea.

Last week, when asked by the SNP’s Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) why the Government will not introduce a universal basic income, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “We on this side of the House don’t agree with the universal basic income.

“It wouldn’t be right to provide money to millions of people who have absolutely no need of it – that would just detract our resources from being targeted on those who are in most need. And that is what our approach has done throughout this crisis.

“But, with regard to Universal Credit and welfare, we on this side of the House believe the best way to help people is to provide them with work and opportunity, which is why all our efforts are targeted on providing that support to protect as many jobs as possible – whilst recognising that we will not be able to protect every single job.”

The Lib Dems agreed at their conference last month that the party would campaign for a UBI to be paid to all long-term UK residents.

The conference agreed that UBI “will be the best way to provide people with a guarantee of income security and thereby more flexibility and control over their careers and lives”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said UBI is a “huge step towards the fairer society we, as liberals, should champion”.

Those behind the bid in York say opposition Labour councillors have expressed support for the idea of UBI and also for the idea of pilot in the city.

Green councillor and Executive Member for Housing and Safer Neighbourhoods Denise Craghill said: “Covid-19 and the newest Tier 2 restrictions are choking York businesses and residents.

“With the furlough scheme ending and unemployment rising, the time has come to introduce a Universal Basic Income so everyone will have the means to live through this crisis.

“Whilst the additional funds the Government has announced recently are welcome, they are too little and too inconsistent. Individuals, families and businesses will still fall through the gaps. A Basic Income provides exactly that continuity of support without conditions that people need to see them through this crisis."

The call for a UBI pilot is part of a raft of proposals from the council to support the coronavirus recovery, including urging the Government to provide improved finance and services to the city.

York Central MP Rachael Maskell said earlier this month that employment was expected to rise tenfold in 2021 - from 2.7 per cent to 28 per cent - as the city’s tourism and hospitality sectors continue to take a battering.

Green Micklegate Councillor Rosie Baker added: “A Universal Basic Income is essential to ensure everyone can live independently and free from insecurity. The Government needs to listen to the growing number of councils calling for this measure to enable their residents to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.”

Nine councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have already passed motions calling for trials of the idea, where everyone would get a guaranteed, regular payment.

Steve Thomas, co-founder of UBI Lab York, part of a growing network of supporters set up to promote and investigate the idea, said: “The Green Party in York did all the spadework here, and we have been delighted to support them. I hope the council will vote unanimously for the motion and then we can get on with working out how to run a pilot.”