A Basic Income Trial for Birmingham

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Ronan Nagle-Weaver
Ronan Nagle-Weaver signed this petition

A Universal Basic Income could provide security for all citizens, reduce inequality, and promote entrepreneurship and community cohesion.

We, the undersigned, petition Birmingham City Council to support a basic income trial in Birmingham and to write to the government to request that they look into the feasibility of pilot schemes.

We are asking that:

The petition is presented at full council and that councillors have time to debate the issue.
The council considers joining councils in Sheffield, Liverpool and Hull in backing the idea of a basic income trial.
The council write to the government in support of a basic income trial in Birmingham. 

There has been growing momentum across the UK and worldwide for the idea of a Universal Basic Income to eliminate poverty, insecurity, and boost wellbeing and the local economy. In the UK, a number of local groups in the UK have formed over the past few months, such as the UBI Labs in: Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, York, Norfolk and Kirklees. We, UBI Lab Birmingham, have recently formed to continue the movement, but with a focus on Birmingham.

Proponents of Basic Income argue it is the fairest way of sharing wealth and could guarantee minimum standards of living. Every individual would receive regular payments from the government with no strings attached, taking away enormously complicated conditionality that the current welfare system has. By covering everyone's basic needs, a basic income would enable them to have more stability and security in their lives and thrive, rather than just survive. Although this may seem like an inherently left wing idea, it also has a rich history on the right. President Richard Nixon almost passed a basic income bill in 1969, Milton Friedman advocated for something similar in the form of a negative income tax and Prof. Greg Mankiw (the most prominent Conservative macro-economist in the world) endorsed it as an idea in 2019. 

Recently we have seen evidence of the lack of security that many have through the coronavirus outbreak and with an increasingly unstable economic future, we feel it is better to support people with an upfront payment rather than dealing with any problems after they occur.

The benefits of a basic income include greater social cohesion, reduced inequality, reduced poverty, better health, and a base level of support for victims of domestic or financial abuse. By providing a guarantee of security, it can also encourage entrepreneurship. Considering that Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe, with under 25s accounting for 40% of its population, imagine the wave of youth entrepreneurship that could flourish with a basic income in place. 

There have been several trials of basic income that have occurred including recently in Finland but also in Canada during the 1970s and other countries across the world such as Kenya and India. The UK government, however, has yet to support such a scheme in the UK, although the Scottish government have taken it upon themselves to investigate the practicalities of a pilot scheme and have been working on a feasibility study over the last few years. They will publish their results later this year, with the potential of a pilot happening north of the border. In last year’s general election, the Green Party included basic income as a core part of their manifesto and were joined by the Labour Party who supported the idea of several trials across the UK. In addition, several local authorities have backed the idea of trials in their area including Sheffield (June 2019), Liverpool (2018) and Hull (Jan 2020).

There has never been a more urgent time for Birmingham City Council to join these authorities in supporting a basic income pilot.