EKKLESIA is pleased to join politicians from various parties, NGOs, civil society groups and campaign leaders in endorsing the following open letter to the Prime Minister. You can co-sign by adding your name here.
Rt Hon Rishi Sunak PM
10 Downing St,
Dear Prime Minister,
Over the past fifteen years, people across the UK have faced an unprecedented series of crises. From the financial crash and the pandemic to climate breakdown and the cost-of-living crisis, each has left households at risk of precarity and poverty. Despite these successive emergencies, we have not yet put in place measures in this country that would protect everybody when the worst case scenario becomes a reality.
For the second time in three years, the UK government has been forced into putting money in people’s pockets to prevent disaster. These ad-hoc solutions have been too little, too late, and have come at extortionate cost to the public purse. 125,000 people have been told they need to pay back £500m in Universal Credit payments wrongly issued during the pandemic. Now, during a cost-of-living crisis, almost 110,000 people have been sanctioned by the DWP in one month alone. These makeshift solutions will not provide the comprehensive protection this country needs when the next crisis hits.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the UK led the world in creating the NHS. This established a level under which no-one could fall – rich or poor. The cost-of-living crisis shows that we urgently now need to do the same for people’s incomes.
A Basic Income would guarantee a basic standard of living for everybody, regardless of income, wealth or work. It would be set at a modest level – enough to pay for the basics, like food, transport and utility bills. But it would be enough to prevent struggling households being tipped into poverty when the next crisis hits. Put simply, a Basic Income could be our generation’s NHS.
There is a myth that Basic Income increases unemployment. But in every comparable country where it has been tried, a Basic Income has led to an increase in employment. For a Conservative Prime Minister, helping more people into work should be a priority.
In your first speech on taking office, you focused on strengthening security and building a strong economy. But our country cannot be secure if our households, neighbourhoods and communities are not secure. The inevitability of further, and likely larger, shocks to our economy means we urgently need a sustainable and resilient economy. ‘Levelling up’ can only become reality if it’s built on a foundation of stability and security.
Basic Income is an idea that is rapidly gaining interest across the UK. The Welsh Government has just launched a world-leading pilot involving young people leaving care. North of the border, the Scottish Government has indicated its intention to pilot Basic Income during this parliament. And in England, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has repeatedly expressed his desire to pilot Basic Income in the city, saying that the idea’s “time has come”. Recent polling has borne this out: YouGov found that British people support the introduction of a basic income by a 20-point margin.
This winter, we are facing a real moment of crisis. The poverty and inequality caused by the cost-of-living crisis could threaten the very foundations of the UK itself. The social fabric of this country is at risk of being damaged irreparably. Now is not the time for half-measures, or to tinker around the edges. The system we have put in place to support our fellow citizens is failing us, and we need to try something different.
We, the undersigned, urge you to:
set up a government taskforce to explore the potential of Basic Income as part of a new economic settlement for this country
launch substantial pilots in all four nations of the UK to see how a Basic Income would work in practice
CPPLG chair Christine Jardine MP and co-chairs Baroness Natalie Bennett, Beth Winter MP, Ronnie Cowan MP, Hina Bokhari AM, Patrick Brown MLA, 195 elected representatives and academics, civil society and campaign leaders. Add your signature here.
Thank you to the UBI Lab Cross Party and Local Government Group for making this possible.