Leeds Council Motion calls for UBI pilot in city

Posted on September 17, 2020

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On 16 September Leeds City Council has passed a motion calling on the government to launch a pilot of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in the city.

Full Council has passed the motion with cross-party support from Labour, Liberal-Democratic and Green Councillors. You can watch the full Council meeting here. In case you only want to listen to the discussion about the UBI motion, please start at 4:06 (4hrs 6 min) and finish at 4:39.

It is important to note that the original White Paper Motion of Cllr Bentley seconded by Cllr Forsaith was presented with two alternative and opposing amendments. Conservative Cllr Buckley proposed the first one which abandoned the demand for a UBI trial in the city. The majority of Leeds councillors rejected this amendment. Labour Cllr Coupar submitted the second amendment which requests a UBI pilot scheme with external funding. This amended motion has been carried by a vast majority of Labour, Liberal-Democratic and Green councillors.

This motion can partly be seen as a result of the UBI Lab Leeds advocacy work in the city promoting UBI. Our event in the Council Chamber with world-leading UBI expert Guy Standing in January this year explained the potential of UBI to create a better and fairer society and strengthen the resilience of communities and citizens. Resilience is particularly important so that our actual climate crisis does not turn into climate chaos.

UBI Lab Leeds is part of the UBI Lab Network – a coalition of 24 autonomous groups across the UK and around the world working towards Basic Income pilots in their communities.

As a result of work by the Network, six Councils have already passed motions calling for UBI pilots in their areas:

Already in 2015 four Councils in Scotland asked for UBI trial. It started with a report in Fife calling for “A Fairer Fife”. This was followed by N Ayrshire, then Glasgow and Edinburgh. The responsive Scottish Government financed a feasibility study how to implement a UBI study in Scotland. The impressive report has been published in May this year and will be extremely useful for UBI trials conducted in other parts of the UK.

The UBI Lab Network are campaigning for other cities and towns across the UK to call for UBI pilots in their area – creating a movement for change among communities who have been failed by business-as-usual economics from Westminster.

In collaboration with Compass and Organise, the UBI Lab Network has recently released an interactive map collecting over 20,000 responses to a Work and Pensions Select Committee call for evidence on UBI. This reveals responses from members of the public to the question “What would you do differently if you had Basic Income every month?” The map includes dozens of submissions from Leeds.

The Yorkshire Evening Post has reported about the UBI motion before the Council Session. The first one was published on 10 September “Leeds councillors asked to support guaranteed income for everybody” and the second one on 15 September “Greens and Lib Dems leaders support calls for Leeds Universal Basic Income“. The local TV station Sheffield Live presented a brief discussion about the Leeds Council motion with our UBI colleagues Sam Gregory and Tchiyiwe Chihana. After the Leeds Council decision to carry the UBI motion the Yorkshire Evening Post reported “Government urged to start free-wage-for-all scheme in Leeds” and the Independent wrote “Leeds becomes largest city in UK to call for universal basic income pilot – Councillors vote for policy to be trialled“. BBC News reported “Leeds councillors approve free-wage-for-all pilot idea“.

Our supporter Remco Peters has written a good article in Yorkshire Bylines on our collective achievement ‘Let’s make universal basic income our generation’s NHS’.

Contrary to the beliefs and statements of some opponents all UBI proposals keep Housing Benefit and disability benefits. Many UBI proposals replace Child Benefit with a more generous UBI for children.

Most UBI proposals replace some means-tested benefits like Jobseeker’s Allowance and tax credits. All serious UBI proposals would make lower and middle income households better off.

The following are some thought-provoking quotes about the UBI motion of Leeds City Council.

Ed Davey MP, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“The Coronavirus pandemic has made clear that much about our economy and welfare system is broken. People we absolutely rely on, from carers and stay-at-home parents, to supermarket workers and delivery drivers, aren’t being properly remunerated for their contributions. This is a huge injustice that often keeps people trapped in living standards they don’t deserve, whilst stopping them from reaching their true potential. UBI is a hugely powerful tool that will allow us to address this issue, along with many other emerging challenges such as automation and changing work patterns. I am fully committed to campaigning for a UBI that will give everyone the support they deserve and the opportunities they need.”

Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green Party, said:

“Universal Basic Income is an idea whose time has come. The coronavirus crisis has shown that we need to mend the social security net for the decades ahead, helping us to build back a greener, fairer economy. This can be our generation’s NHS, and it’s amazing to see Greens in Leeds leading the way.”

Leeds Liberal Democratic councillor Jonathan Bentley, said:

“The Covid pandemic has caused immense financial and social hardship to thousands of residents and families in Leeds. This will only get worse. The current overly complicated, means-tested benefits system is inadequate to deal with the effects of a declining economy and increased unemployment. To achieve a fair recovery it is time for new thinking. A Universal Basic Income will have the twin effects of offering protection from poverty for all our citizens and a boost to our economy for our future prosperity.”

Leeds Green councillor Ann Forsaith, said:

“We are now in a time of rapid change, with the health and environmental crises impacting on both society and our economies. A Universal Basic Income for the UK would be a central feature in rebuilding a fairer and greener future for us all. I applaud and support the work that UBI Lab Leeds is doing.”