'Universal Basic Income could transform Hull,' says Liberal Democrat councillor

Hull could become the latest place to bid for a chance to trial Universal Basic Income (UBI), but Labour’s devastating electoral defeat may scupper any dreams of it becoming a reality.

Liberal Democrats in the city plan to table a motion this week, with the aim of forcing the council to write to the Chancellor asking to be a test-bed for the controversial income stream.

UBI is a system where everyone, regardless of whether they work or not, is paid a set amount by the Government. The idea is it would reduce poverty and inequality, but critics maintain it would be too expensive and lead to cuts elsewhere.

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UBI was trialled in Finland between January 2017 until December 2018, and although at the end of the two years people were found to be happier, employment levels did not improve.

Hull Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Drake-Davis. Photo: Lib DemsHull Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Drake-Davis. Photo: Lib Dems
Hull Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Drake-Davis. Photo: Lib Dems

Labour’s election manifesto committed to trying out the project, with Sheffield and Liverpool both floated as areas where this could be played out.

And so-called UBI Labs have been set up to explore the potential of the policy being piloted regionally in Leeds and Kirklees too.

But since the party’s crushing election defeat, the idea has been dismissed.

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However, Lib Dem Councillor for Beverley and Newland Paul Drake-Davis still appealed to Conservative Chancellor Sajid Javid to consider the move.

He said: “We live in a world of increasing job insecurity, where more and more people in Hull and across the UK are struggling to plan and build a better future for themselves and their families. Instead, people are just focused on surviving month-to-month, there needs to be a change to the system.

“Many governments are already looking to see if this concept can be that exact change. Universal Basic Income has the potential to help people reach their full creative and economic potential.

“I feel Hull, being a pioneering and progressive city, should join groundbreaking studies which are already taking place across the country to see if a Universal Basic Income has the potential to positively transform the lives and thereby the economy, wealth and wellbeing of our city.”

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But even if Hull City Council does adopt the motion - which will be tabled on Thursday - the Treasury has previously dismissed the idea.

Following a report from Professor Guy Standing, a professor at SOAS University, last year a spokesman said they were "committed to supporting working people keep more of what they earn, while providing a strong and sustainable safety net for those who need it".