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Mayor Jarvis: Universal Basic Income "deserves further exploration"

The South Yorkshire mayor has said pilots could help build case for radical welfare reform.

Mayor Jarvis Water Fountain Landscape

Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis.

Sheffield City Region.

The leader of Sheffield City Region has said that ambitious proposals to provide every citizen with a guaranteed monthly income "deserve further exploration."

Mayor Dan Jarvis, who is also MP for Barnsley, said that pilots of Universal Basic Income (UBI) could resolve some of the "outstanding questions" about how the idea would work in practice.

“With soaring unemployment, and inequality already a serious concern, we need to look very closely at our benefits system to ensure it delivers dignity, fairness and a safety net for everyone who needs it," he told Now Then.

"Universal Basic Income in some form is an idea which has attracted increasing attention amid the ravages of Covid, and which deserves further exploration."

UBI is a regular and unconditional payment given to everybody regardless of their income, wealth or employment status. The highest earners would effectively pay their UBI back in tax, helping to fund a basic income for all.

In 2019 Sheffield City Council expressed its interest in hosting a basic income pilot in the city after lobbying by UBI Lab, a grassroots group of academics, researchers and campaigners.

Since then councils in Hull, Leeds, Norwich and Belfast have all called for local trials, while last week the Welsh Senedd passed a motion backing a UBI pilot in the country.

A recent trial in Finland found that UBI recipients had better physical and mental health, as well as improved confidence, life satisfaction and trust in institutions. They also worked slightly more on average than those in a control group.

It is predicted that UK unemployment will spike dramatically in the coming months, with South Yorkshire's already-struggling economy set to be hit hard.

Mayor Jarvis said that while there were "still questions that need to be resolved" around basic income, studies and pilots in the UK could provide answers.

"As our economy and society change, the issues UBI seeks to address are likely to become ever more urgent," he said.

In collaboration with Compass, UBI Lab has recently launched a new group that brings MPs, peers, councillors, mayors and members of the devolved assemblies together to explore UBI.

Among the members of the Cross-Party Parliamentary and Local Government Group on UBI are Sheffield politicians including Olivia Blake MP, Cllr Alison Teal and Baroness Natalie Bennett.

Councillor Teal said that Universal Basic Income had the potential to provide "a sustainable base for the economy and security for all."

"The pandemic has highlighted the inadequacies of our current welfare system and the need to provide a safety net for everyone is ever more pressing."

by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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