London Assembly kicks basic income into long grass

Londoners won’t be benefitting from a universal basic income any time soon as a call for a pilot in the city in a motion brought by Sian Berry AM and Caroline Pidgeon AM was kicked into the long grass by the other parties on the Assembly. [1]

Sian Berry last week joined 520 other elected officials, including many Labour MPs, Welsh AMs, peers and councillors, in calling for a trial of UBI in their areas. [2] The call was backed by Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon at today’s London Assembly Plenary meeting who was also a signatory on the letter to the Chancellor. 

Labour AM Leonie Cooper spoke to reject Sian’s motion and instead, in a highly unusual move, put forward a proposal to refer the issue for consideration at a later date by the Assembly’s Economy Committee.
This is the first time the Assembly has taken this rare procedural route in this political term.

Sian Berry says:
“I am incredibly disappointed in my colleagues for fudging this issue today and avoiding taking a position. The Assembly should have been braver and got on board with their fellow politicians across the UK who are already supporting this idea.”“These times demand leadership and I cannot think of a better time or place to trial a basic income than here and now.“Londoners lives have been truly shattered by the coronavirus pandemic. It has infiltrated every aspect of our city, our healthcare system, food security, jobs and livelihoods, and the futures our young people can look forward to. “Right now is when we should be lobbying Government to invest in our citizens and their security with trials of a basic income and London is the right place to do them.”

Caroline Pidgeon AM says:
“We have seen very clearly in recent months how fragile many peoples’ financial circumstances are, especially here in London, where even before COVID-19 close to a third of people lived in poverty. It is therefore bitterly disappointing seeing so many Assembly Members kick the proposal of a trial of Universal Basic Income into the long grass.”

A London School of Economics report found that 1 in 10 young people have lost their jobs during the pandemic. [3] The Resolution Foundation said the Chancellor has failed to help many self-employed workers and especially those who were young and working in the gig economy. [4]

The idea of a universal basic income to help those not caught by patchy Government safety nets is gaining national support, a recent YouGov poll on UBI found 51 per cent of the public also support a universal basic income, ‘where the government makes sure everyone has an income, without a means test or requirement to work’.

Sian is available for interview.

[1] Watch the debate: 
[2] Letter to Rishi Sunak calling on him to back basic income trials. UBI Lab, Nov 2020
[3] Generation COVID and Social Mobility: Evidence and Policy. LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance (CEP), Oct 2020 
[3] Covid job losses hitting young people hardest in UK, study finds. The Guardian, Oct 2020
[4] YouGov poll on UBI


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