Rishi Sunak urged to examine universal basic income to protect Britain from future crises

By: Ashley Cowburn, Political Correspondent

Rishi Sunak is being urged to examine the radical idea of a universal basic income to protect Brits the rocketing cost-of-living and future crises.

The call comes from 285 campaigners, MPs, academics and mayors from across the country including Sadiq Khan, Andy Burnham and Tracy Brabin.

Other signatories include the food poverty campaigner Jack Monroe, former Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

In an open letter to the new Prime Minister, they say a basic income “could be our generation’s NHS ” and prevent households being tipped into poverty.

They warn Mr Sunak the country faces a “real moment of crisis” this winter with poverty and inequality threatening the “very foundations of the UK itself”.

The idea of a basic income typically involves replacing means-tested benefits and providing a regular flat-rate payment to all citizens regardless of income.

Earlier this year the Welsh Government unveiled a three-year £20million pilot of basic income for 500 young adults to support them as they leave care.

The letter today – organised by the Cross Party Parliamentary & Local Government on universal basic income – urges the Tory Government to set up “substantial pilots” in all corners of the UK and a taskforce to explore the idea.

This would likely examine how the policy would work in practice and the costs involved if it is rolled out nationwide.

In the open letter Mr Sunak is told that a basic income could be “set at a modest level – enough to pay for the basics, like food, transport and utility bills”.

“But it would be enough to prevent struggling households being tipped into poverty when the next crisis hits.”

With Covid pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, the letter adds that for a second time in three years ministers have “been forced into putting money in people’s pockets to prevent disaster”

“These ad-hoc solutions have been too little, too late, and have come at extortionate cost to the public purse.”

“The system we have put in place to support fellow citizens is failing us, and we need to try something different”.

Jonny Douglas of the UBI Lab Network said: “The UK has faced an unprecedented series of crises over the past two years.

“Both the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have revealed that our households are woefully unprepared to withstand the kind of shocks to the system that are increasing in both frequency and intensity.

“A Universal Basic Income, paid to everybody regardless of income, wealth or work, could be part of the solution.

“It would give everybody a basic level of security, and would stop anyone falling into destitution when the next crisis hits.”

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