Petition urges Chancellor to trial Universal Basic Income in Sheffield amid coronavirus crisis

Written by Sinead Butler

The petition, created by UBI Labs Sheffield, sets out in an open letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP concerns over the sick pay of millions of working families.

In particular they highlight that those who are self-employed, part of the gig economy, or are on zero-hour contracts will be hit the hardest financially due to not being able to access statutory sick pay.

Social distancing and airlines halting flights, along with uncertainty surrounding the length of time it will take for countries to tackle the virus, is expected to significantly impact the global economy.

London’s FTSE 100 index has fallen more than 8% today.

Journalist and writer Sam Gregory of the UBI Lab Sheffield said: “This country is facing its worst crisis since the Second World War. Our households, communities and economy are all at serious risk from this virus.”

An RSA/Populus poll found that over 40% of British workers have less than £1,000 in savings.

Universal Basic Income seeks to ease this financial burden by providing a “fixed, regular and unconditional income.”

Millions of people are in danger of falling into poverty or debt over the coming months, as offices close, small businesses fail and bars and restaurants across the UK lay off staff.

Journalist and writer, Sam Gregory of the UBI Sheffield Lab team

This income has been proposed to range from £50 – £120 per week for every adult, whether they are in employment or not, regardless of the income of individuals.

The aim is that UBI would mitigate the worst effects of the virus on our economy, as it would give all citizens the money they need to rebuild our local economies.

Over 800 people have already signed the petition created 5 days ago backing the campaign.

This is not the first time that the idea of a UBI trial in Sheffield has been mentioned.

Last year, Sheffield City Council was the first in the UK to back a plan for Universal Basic Income.

Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell had seemed to implement the trial under a Labour government with the backing of Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore – the leader of the Labour-controlled council – and Olivia Blake – the former deputy council leader and now the current Sheffield Hallam MP.

Mr Gregory said: “As the city at the centre of the European movement for a UBI, here in Sheffield we’re leading the calls for an emergency UBI in response to coronavirus, but we want to see this given to everybody in the country, not just Sheffield. Every single one of us will need help to survive this.”

This call for Universal Basic Income comes as Virgin Atlantic urges the UK government to sanction a £7.5 billion bailout.

Mr Gregory added: “What’s needed is an emergency safety net for ordinary people – not for billionaires. Giving cash to everybody in this country in the form of an emergency Universal Basic Income would give all of us the economic security we desperately need.”

UBI Labs Sheffield is a part of a UBI Lab network that includes Liverpool, Leeds, North East, Kirklees, Jakarta and Bucuresti that are calling for these changes.

You can find the UBI Lab Sheffield’s petition here.

Written by Sinead Butler

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