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UBI Lab Northern Ireland council backs basic income trial

A council in Northern Ireland has become the latest in the UK to call for a pilot of a radical new form of welfare.

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Alliance Party councillor and UBI Lab Northern Ireland founder Patrick Brown.

Councillors in Newry, Mourne and Down narrowly passed a motion supporting a Universal Basic Income (UBI) pilot in the area.

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 through tax, helping to fund a basic income for everybody.

Supporters say it would guarantee economic security to all citizens, leading to improvements in physical and mental health, as well as democratic engagement

The motion was proposed by Patrick Brown, an Alliance Party councillor and founder of UBI Lab Northern Ireland, which is part of the worldwide UBI Lab Network.

"A Universal Basic Income is a fixed, regular amount paid to every resident in an area regardless of their circumstances," Cllr Brown told Now Then.

"It would replace the vast majority of means-tested benefits and would provide everyone with a basic level of financial security to fall back on, lifting many millions out of poverty."

The motion was seconded by Cllr John Trainor of the SDLP, who said that local councils can be a "vital starting point" for conversations around new ideas.

"Our district could now play host to a local trial of UBI in the future, should funding become available from the Treasury," he said. "This is not pie in the sky as the Labour Party committed to running nationwide trials in their last election manifesto."

The motion was passed by six votes to five, with the DUP abstaining and Sinn Fein voting against.

Newry, Mourne and Down, which is in the south-east of Northern Ireland, joins councils in Liverpool, Sheffield, Norwich and Hull which have already called for the government to pilot basic income in their areas.

A new map created by UBI Lab, Compass and Organise has collected dozens of responses from people across Northern Ireland saying what they would do with a basic income.

"I would certainly spend less time worrying about how to pay bills," reads one submission. "It would allow me to be more creative and a little less stressed."

Newry, Mourne and Down Council will now write to the Treasury to express their interest in hosting a UBI pilot.

UBI Lab is a project supported in part by Opus Independents, who also publish Now Then and co-ordinate the Festival of Debate

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