Sunday, 7 October 2018

Universal Basic Services

UBI is now everywhere:
Futures Forum: Universal Basic Income: the libertarian argument for
Futures Forum: Universal Basic Income @ Radio 4's In Business
Futures Forum: Universal Basic Income @ Radio 4's Thinking Allowed

The openDemocracy website looks at a potential partner: 

Universal basic services: ending austerity forever

11th September 2018 
Andrew Percy

Image: HM Treasury, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The premise of “austerity” is that there isn’t enough money to deliver a decent standard of living for all because there was a financial market crash in 2008. To banish this idea from the political landscape we must tackle the cost of accessing the essential ingredients that allow anyone to live a decent life. That is the aim of Universal Basic Services (UBS), and our report from UCL’s Institute for Global Prosperity clearly demonstrates that this is easily and practically within our grasp.

For less than 2.3% of GDP, we showed that we can kiss austerity goodbye and welcome in a new age of joy and freedom that would make the UK the envy of the world. We already have the NHS and free education, now we just need to extend the same ethos to housing, transport, information access and food. Imagine for a moment living in a UK with 1.5 million extra social housing units, no Council Tax for the poorest, free local transport, basic Internet access for everyone, and community food programs designed and delivered locally that would ensure that no family need again be scared of not having a meal. That UK would be utterly transformed from the one we live in today: free from fear, free from destitution, and well fair to everyone.

Universal access to basic services will require substantial devolution of power and responsibility to local democracies – and that’s a good thing. But it will also require an upgrade of our local democracies. Our UBS budget included funding for 650 new local assemblies with well paid, locally elected representatives who would have direct democratic control over the administration of UBS funds. The revenue for the UBS would be collected from taxation and guarantees basic services to all citizens.

Austerity is a top-down policy from a distant national parliament that has starved local services of funding. UBS is the opposite, and restores power, money and control back to democratic institutions closest to the citizens they serve.

To make this increase in investment in our people and our lives we will need to raise a little more tax. Our report fully funded the proposals with an extra £20.42 a week net coming from the top half of all earners. This would take the UK’s total tax take to around 43% which is around the average of the EU19 countries, and less than France at 45%.

The value of the basic services is worth £126 a week to anyone who uses all of the services, which is basically like an 80% pay rise for those on the lowest incomes. People who use the services have their costs reduced, which is the same as a pay rise (this effect is sometimes called a “social wage”). With an ageing population, having adequate health and social care effects everyone. Young people need access to the same level of social services their parents enjoyed. Reducing costs for ordinary people is the key to ending austerity for ever.

If we want to escape the cyclical battles over ‘tax and spend’ policies, we need to shift the focus to the cost of living crisis. Ten years on from the 2008 financial crisis, it is time for austerity to end. We must ask a deeper question: are we willing to stop asking for more money, and start asking for a better life?

This article is part of the ‘100 Policies to End Austerity’ series in collaboration with the Progressive Economy Forum.

Universal basic services: ending austerity forever - New thinking for the British economy 

There is a website devoted to the idea:
Universal Basic Services – UBS – sustainable social safety for the 21st century

The P2P Foundation looks at research from UCL:

Universal basic services could work better than basic income to combat 'rise of the robots' | P2P Foundation
Universal Basic Services - a radical proposal from UCL's Institute for Global Prosperity - YouTube
IGP's Social Prosperity Network publishes the UK's first report on Universal Basic Services | UCL Institute for Global Prosperity - UCL - London's Global University

This was taken up by the mainstream press earlier in the year: 

Universal basic services could work better than basic income to combat 'rise of the robots', say experts

The state should make shelter, food, travel and IT services available to all, free at the point of use, rather than focusing on redistributing money, a team at UCL says

Ben Chapman @b_c_chapman
Wednesday 11 October 2017 08:27


The radical proposals include building 1.5 million new social homes to provide rent-free accommodation to those in most need ( )

UK citizens should receive free housing, food, transport and internet access to counter a “rise of the robots” that threatens to eradicate millions of jobs, new research has suggested.

Experts working for University College London’s Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) say the universal ethos of the NHS should be expanded to cover other areas of life to mitigate the disruption caused by technological change.

The radical proposals include building 1.5 million new social homes to provide rent-free accommodation to those in most need and supplying one third of all meals for the estimated 2.2 million households who experience food insecurity each year.

Half of Britons back plan to pay all UK citizens basic income

The Freedom Pass, which allows disabled people and those aged over 60 to travel locally for free, would be expanded to everyone. Basic internet and telephone access would also be paid for by the state, allowing everyone, including those on low or no incomes, to access work opportunities, “as well as participate in our democracy as informed citizens”, the IGP said.

The Institute has put forward the set of ideas, which it calls ‘universal basic services”, as a more achievable and more desirable alternative to universal basic income (UBI).

The idea of UBI - paying everyone a guaranteed income regardless of whether they are in or out of work - has garnered lots of attention recently. But the IGP report’s authors argue that, while the aims of UBI may be laudable, the debate should move on to focus on more politically attainable goals.

Instead of attempting to alleviate poverty through redistributive payments and minimum wages, the state should instead provide everyone with the services they need to feel secure in society, the report’s authors argue.
What is Finland's universal basic income scheme?

They say UBI is expensive. Paying all UK citizens the current Jobseeker's Allowance amount of £73.10 per week would cost almost £250bn per year - 13 per cent of the UK’s entire GDP.

By contrast, widening the social safety net through more comprehensive services would cost around £42bn, which can be funded by lowering the personal income tax allowance from £11,800 to £4,300, according to the IGP’s analysis.

The experts say an expansion of basic services to everyone is highly progressive because those who rely on them will be disproportionately the least wealthy in society.

Almost half of the world's jobs, paying almost $16 trillion in wages, could be automated just by adapting existing technology in robotics, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, a recent report by McKinsey estimated.

Professor Henrietta Moore, director of UCL’s Institute for Global Prosperity, said: “Without radical new ideas that challenge the status quo, we face a future where the changing shape of our society and labour market leaves more and more people struggling simply to achieve the basics – let alone having the resources and mental energy to allow themselves and their families to flourish.”

She said that UBS was a logical extension of the widely accepted principle that health and education should be free at the point of use to everyone.

Commenting on the report, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, said that rapid technological changes present a “profound challenge” for the economy and society.

“This report offers bold new thinking on how we can overcome those challenges and create an economy that is radically fairer and offers opportunities for all,” he said. It makes an important contribution to the debate around Universal Basic Income, and will help inform Labour’s thinking on how we can build an economy that truly works for the many not the few.”

Speaking at an event in London on Tuesday, the report’s authors, Professor Jonathan Portes, Howard Reed of Landman Economics and Andrew Percy from the IGP, said they intended their proposals to form a starting point for renewed debate on the issue.

Universal basic services could work better than basic income to combat 'rise of the robots', say experts | The Independent

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