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United Kingdom: The interest for a basic income trial in Sheffield is building up

Wall painting in Sheffield.

The Universal Basic Income (UBI) Lab Sheffield, a campaigning group working from the city of Sheffield, northern UK, has written to all the 84 city councilors in the region, as a move to have them support a local basic income experiment.

The main driver behind the initiative is to “ensure that nobody is economically left out, and that nobody lives in poverty”, in the words of Sam Gregory. This basic income experiment, as proposed by the UBI Lab Sheffield, would be applied in one of three ways:

  1. Removing conditions from social benefits from around 4000 ill or disabled people (while another 4000 people group act as control group) (costing around 18 million £);
  1. Paying 130 £/month (Note 1) to 4000 adults living next to each other (for instance, in a neighbourhood) (costing around 23 million £);
  1. Applying different tax and benefits rules to a 4000 people group, whereas one subset would get, unconditionally, 6000 £/year, disabled or retired people would receive benefits above that level, and children would benefit from a smaller amount. Costing 60 million £, the test pilot would be funded by a new income tax (applied only within that 4000 people group), ensuring that all those earning less than 25000 £/year would see a net raise in their income.

This experiment is set to last for three years, according to the UBI Lab Sheffield’s design strategy. The idea is to measure several outputs, including but not limited to participation in the (paid) workforce, such as broader activity and personal care. Interviews and other qualitative studies would also be a part of all options, as described above.

Campaigners consider Sheffield a promising basic income test ground, but recognize that the city has no funding options for such an experiment. So, it would have to depend on central government financing, which can be more difficult, considering all the political agitation at the moment due to the Brexit-related issues (Sheffield was one of Britain’s cities to marginally vote pro-Brexit). However, the Labour Party is strong in Sheffield (holds 53 out of 84 seats in the city council), and its candidates for the upcoming elections in May already asked UBI Lab Sheffield for information. Sheffield Green Party is also supporting an UBI experiment in the city, as part of its campaign to the city council elections.

Note 1 – The National Living Wage in the UK is around 1300 £/month (calculated from hourly living rate for workers aged 25 and over).

More information at:

Mike Brown, “Universal Basic Income: Brexit-Voting Sheffield May Be England’s First Test”, Inverse, April 1st 2019

Mark Bryan, Jason Leman (lead authors), “Proposal for a Sheffield pilot“, UBI LAB Sheffield, March 2019

About Andre Coelho

André Coelho has written 304 articles.

Activist. Engineer. Musician. For the more beautiful world our hearts know it's possible.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

5 comments

  • Mark Bryan

    Hi, could you please correct a couple of details:

    – the number of participants in option 1 is 4000 not 8000 (the remaining 4000 is the control group who get benefits as usual).

    – we are planning a qualitative study in all 3 options, not just options 2 and 3.

    Full details are at https://www.ubilabsheffield.org/s/SheffUBI-proposal-working-paper-FINAL.pdf

    Many thanks
    Mark Bryan
    UBILab Sheffield

  • Sherry Fuller

    £130 per month is a very low amount. Isn’t UBI meant to cover basic living costs?

    • Andre Coelho

      Hi Sherry,

      In the Finnish experiment, the amount was also much lower than the average Finnish citizen cost of living. These are “trust experiments”, as Scott Santens once said, designed to verify already known results, in order to gain confidence that basic income is indeed the way forward.

      Best regards,

  • Tony

    Option 3 for the experiment. Cost £60million, paid for by Income Tax within the group of 4000. This would mean an increase in Income Tax of (on average) £15000 per person. So a 2 adult houshold would pay an additional £30000 per year in tax. Even taking into account the £6000 your are giving to each person, are you really going to find a neighbourhood in Sheffield where increased tax on this level is going to be payable?
    Has the mathematics been followed through?

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