Westminster won’t implement a basic income to get us through this crisis – but Wales should

Money

Helen Mary Jones, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Mid and West

Later today I will be taking part in the first virtual Senedd. One of the issues I want to raise with the Welsh Government is the importance of introducing an emergency Universal Basic Income to help people during this public health crisis.

The help that has already been made available to businesses and to individuals by the UK and Welsh Governments is of course welcome.  But there are still too many falling through the cracks. The people losing livelihoods because they are being laid off, employers either can’t or won’t make use of government support, the people who have recently become self-employed and have no tax records to show.

This includes self-employed people who can’t wait until June when they’ll get paid the support on offer from the UK Government.

People who have to walk away from jobs because their employers are pushing them to work when they know they need to self-isolate. We need some support that works for them.  Plaid Cymru’s call for an emergency Universal Basic Income would ensure everyone has guaranteed financial security for the duration of the Coronavirus crisis.

Basic income is an idea that has been advocated across the political spectrum for many years. It can go far in addressing the current uncertainty.

Key elements of a Basic Income are that it is:

  • Basic: A minimum payment, sufficient to meet basic needs
  • Universal: Paid to everyone, based on rights of residency
  • Unconditional: Without conditions, and non-withdrawable, irrespective of other sources of income
  • Individual: Assessed and paid individually (including to children) rather than by household

And, of course, it’s taxable, so if anyone claims it now, in this time of crisis and their circumstances improve later they will, effectively, pay it back.

 

Desperate

We know Westminster is not willing to do this, another example of why Westminster doesn’t work for Wales.

This is an opportunity for Welsh Government to do something really innovative and imaginative to help Welsh citizens most in need. Surely they are not going to rely on a Johnson-led government in London to solve all our problems even at such a time of acute need.

My email inbox is full of people contacting me because the current support just doesn’t work for them. Some of them are desperate.

We estimate that a Universal Basic Income at median income would cost £247m for a whole month for the Welsh Government (with backdated payments to the 1st of March 2020). This could be paid for by drawing down Welsh Government fiscal reserves as well as borrow the funds.

In times such as this, what we need now more than ever is an ambitious and innovative plan that gets to the heart of the issue. The patchwork of plans we have now is just not working.

As an earlier article by Tegid Roberts for Nation.Cymru has pointed out paying a Universal Basic Income could prevent a future collapse of the Welsh economy. It is right that we act now, rather than wait for an economic crisis.

A temporary basic income will ensure that individuals can pay their bills, put food on the table and feel secure in what is an unprecedented time.

You can follow me on Twitter here, like my Facebook page here or email me here.

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Jonathan EdwardsEos PengwernKerry DaviesJonathan GammondDr John Ball Recent comment authors
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vicky moller
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vicky moller

wow thats a bold proposal. Incredibly valuable to people I know, BUT is there any way to ensure this money circulates within the Welsh economy rather than leaching out? With the wonders of IT and the need to reduce cash, it should be within our capability? Or this aspect could be phased in

Neil Anderson
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Neil Anderson

Helen Mary Jones AM is quite right. There are too many holes in the UK Government’s net (as always) to prevent unnecessary suffering and deprivation. So typical that they would prefer something complex to administer which doesn’t reach everyone. Always a good idea, the time has certainly come for a UBI. And yes, Vicky, there is a way that we could stop it leaching out of Cymru. With public approval and support from the business sector (who would have a similar incentive to welcome the additional revenue), the Welsh Government could create a digital currency that would be legal tender… Read more »

Cymro
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Cymro

The voting in at the last election of Tory MP’s by the Welsh electorate was dismaying however I hope they all regret their decision all the Torys have ever done is (to quote Cordell) is “Rape the fair Country” they have always taken and given very little Cymru has more poverty than any other UK country look at the last budget £10/head to Scotland £1/head to Wales? This tells it all or are they bribing the Scots So the decision by the Torys not to support the people of Wales as equals does not come as a surprise I hope… Read more »

Richard LONGUES
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Richard LONGUES

To exceptional problems, exceptional solutions.

Make it linked to a «Buy Welsh» programme, show that you’re capable to rule yourselves.

Remember the potato bligh in lreland.

You dont’t count your money, when you count your deads.

Save your lives, save your economy, and save your Liberty.

Rhyddyd ! Cymru am byth !!

Griffith John Davies
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Griffith John Davies

Ardderchog Helen Mary Jones! This is what is needed! No dramas, no ifs or buts, the way to get it sorted. Thanks. Diolch o galon.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Elsewhere headline reads : “Push to end low pay may have to be scrapped, UK government warned …….Low Pay Commission says cost of fighting coronavirus pandemic endangers flagship pledge to raise national living wage to £10.50 an hour” So here we go again. Bunter’s brigade will be in no rush to raise the tax take from the rich and super rich so the cost of Covid-19 “handouts” will be recovered from those that can least afford it. Wales won’t do much on any kind of UBI until it breaks free. Until then we have to team up with any one… Read more »

Dr John Ball
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Dr John Ball

If only it were that simple. There IS a very strong case for a Universal Basic Income for two very basic reasons. First of course is disposable income – you don’t have to know anything about economics to understand the economy ultimately relies on people spending. This is the fundamental weakness of the Welsh economy; low wages and thus low spending power. The second is its simplicity. Available to all without the need for endless form filling and, for those currently in receipt of Universal Credit and other social schemes, the ability to go to work without losing benefit or… Read more »

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Interesting that you mention Tesco in your closing comments. Now that’s an outfit that has worked hard during this Covid -19 crisis to meet customer demands, not always successfully, but high marks for effort. Of course they have enjoyed an increased revenue from the panic buying so no dent in their performance. So far so good. So why on earth have they started bleating about missing out on council Tax/business rate “holiday”/rebate ? They don’t sound like a troubled business to me. Or is this yet another government cock-up ( Cardiff or London ?) with handouts farmed out indiscriminately while… Read more »

Neil Anderson
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Neil Anderson

This is exactly the sort of discussion would ought to be having about a UBI. John’s contributions are always valuable, and most of the time I agree with him. In response to two points he makes… Tax: my proposed digital currency would be taxed at source by the WG at a rate of 10%. End of. There is a need for a range of other taxes in Cymru (eg. sales taxes) in order to lower income tax. But that’s a discussion for another time. The WG would then have its own Ari account, again to be used internally. Of course,… Read more »

Jonathan Edwards
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Jonathan Edwards

I agree about the simplicity. Probably why the US is paying people a standard lump sum. But really the problems are deeper. (1) Wales – even Plaid Cymru – is not showing the knowhow or fire to get the necessary independence including economic base. So we have standard global-left virtue signalling like open borders and global trade/supply trains (not working with the virus, are they?). (2) You can’t leave out the social angle. Are we willing to say that vast chunks of the population will have a reduced will to work and just live off the State? We are at… Read more »

Dr Sian Caiach
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In my party, Gwlad we have a done a lot of work on universal basic income and it is a very good idea, as Helen Mary points out. The April Fool’s Joke is that however beneficial a universal citizens basic income is, the Welsh Government, unless it has been secretly hiding a great deal of money away for a rainy day, cannot deliver it. At the moment the UK government is in control of Wales and cannot offer one area of the UK a universal basic income without rolling it out to everyone across the UK. As most Government finance… Read more »

j humphrys
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j humphrys

THE Welsh independence party? But still not Ein Gwlad, never mind Gwlad will do.

Eos Pengwern
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We decided that plain Gwlad would be better still. As for The Welsh Independence Party – which we’re also allowed to put on ballot papers now – we believe we’ve earned the right to use that title by having thought through the practicalities of independence in much more detail than any other party. You can see that from our blog, and even more so from our 2020 Manifesto once it comes out (when we’ve finally been able to have it approved by our members at our Policy Convention, which had been due to take place in Llanhilleth on 28th March… Read more »

Dr John Ball
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Dr John Ball

Sian is absolutely correct. Perhaps I should have added to my contribution that
a healthy and productive economy is THE very first and basic requirement.
I am not naive enough to believe that on the first day of independence everything will be rosy and every day the first day of spring; but what I DO believe is that independence gives us the freedom and the opportunity to build such a successful and productive economy.

Jonathan Edwards
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Jonathan Edwards

You’re dodging the question. Having (improbably, givend 100 years of inertia under Labour) got your productive economy, which we all want, what then? You’ve got an intellectually elegant idea, UBI. But is it a good idea socially? Do all Nation.cymru readers assume UBI is socially a good idea? Have you actually thought about it?

Eos Pengwern
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There’s an article on the gwlad.org website that sets out the detail of how we envisage a UBI (or as we prefer to call it, a Citizens’ Income) working in Wales. It was published in November 2018, so no-one can accuse us of jumping on a bandwagon here:

https://gwlad.org/en/2018/11/29/english-a-citizens-income-for-wales/

j humphrys
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j humphrys

An increasing amount of posts are “of course, if we had indy…………” If this Covid stuff carries on, we will have to have an AUOB permanent cocktail party of opinions, apart from the official OPINION pieces. Did David Jones call this Anathemata?

Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

Would recommend listening to a recent programme on the experience of Alaska and its basic income scheme, its strengths and its weaknesses. Politicians always think we will switch off our critical faculties as soon as we hear them say the words ‘bold and ambitious’ however it is usually a warning that we should do the opposite and think through the medium and long term consequences before rushing to implement a short-term solution, however appealing it looks at first glance.

Kerry Davies
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Kerry Davies

If Wales had the money and if WAG had the power and if the UK let us get away with it it would take a couple of years to set up a functional UBI but Wales has neither the money nor the power and Westminster is as likely to allow it as fly to the moon. It certainly wouldn’t help in the current crisis no matter how brilliantly it was set up. As for a Wales only currency it cannot work, the border is too fluid and fickle. The Hay Co-op is in England and the Boat Inn Penallt has… Read more »