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Cornwall Green Party calls for universal basic income to support people during the coronavirus crisis

Cornwall Green Party calls for universal basic income to support people during the coronavirus crisis

With many people in Cornwall likely to fall through the security net being held out by the government during the current crisis, Cornwall Greens say that making sure everyone has a guaranteed basic income is the simplest and surest way to make sure everyone can meet their immediate needs.

As Boris Johnson’s government moves to support businesses and people who cannot work during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, Cornwall Green Party is warning that many people in Cornwall will not be able to benefit from this help and are already facing major problems putting food on the table.

The party is calling for a bolder and more radical step: for the government to roll-out a universal basic income that would make sure nobody faces destitution.

“There are 61,500 self-employed people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly,” said Matt Valler, the party’s joint co-ordinator. “That’s 17% of the working age population – nearly twice the average for England. While we welcome the government’s recognition that these people need support just as much as employees who can no longer work, its current plan is simply inadequate.

“Self-employed people will not actually see any money in their pockets until June, and with many of them having little or nothing in the way of savings to fall back on, this will mean that they’re unable to afford food and other basic necessities.”

The party also says that the current plan is fiendishly complex to administer and full of gaps. Payments will be based on earnings as reported in people’s last self-assessment tax returns, which were for 2018-19. People who earned little in that year, or who have started their self-employed work more recently and did not make a tax return, are likely  to see little or no financial support.

“There is a much simpler and fairer solution,” Matt Valler said. “We’re calling for the government to pay £1000 a month to every adult in the UK. This would be enough to meet everyone’s basic needs and make sure that no-one is left behind.

Oxford economist David Susskind calculates that this would cost the government about £66 billion a month. This sounds like a lot, and it is – but even if this were to continue for six months, it would still be much less than the nearly £500 billion that was spent on bailing out the banks during the 2008 financial crisis.”

Universal basic income (UBI) was one of the main planks of the Green Party’s economic policy at the last election. In the longer term, the party believes that a secure basic income for all citizens – set initially at a lower level than the stop-gap measure proposed for this immediate crisis – would lead to a fairer society, reducing inequality and potentially replacing most of the current benefits system.

“The coronavirus crisis is likely to have a long-lasting economic impact,” Matt Valler said. “But we’re also facing the huge challenges of the climate emergency, and addressing these will also mean very big changes. It’s completely unrealistic to think that ‘business as usual’ is going to be enough to achieve the sort of social resilience we need to adapt to these.

“A crisis such as the one we’re now living through can focus people’s minds on how, when it comes down to it, we’re all in the same boat and will float or sink together. The National Health Service that is now our best protection again this pandemic was born out of the Second World War, along with the National Insurance system.

“William Beveridge, the main architect of these, wrote: ‘A revolutionary moment in the world’s history is a time for revolutions, not for patching.’

“We’re calling on the government to take a bold step that would save many families from imminent destitution and do a great deal to alleviate the fear and insecurity that are as great a danger to our society right now as the virus itself.”