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A Universal Basic Income could transform the north of England – here’s how

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The UBI Lab Network believe a Universal Basic Income could transform northern cities like Manchester.

Joe Cleary.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, the 2008 recession, climate breakdown, Covid-19 and Brexit may not seem like they have much in common, other than in their geopolitical impact. But they all had a profound and lasting impact on the UK economy. Each of these external shocks had a seriously detrimental impact on the prosperity of the country, and subsequently a detrimental impact on the livelihoods of the poorest in society. Each of these disparate crises briefly lifted a veil to reveal that systems designed to increase prosperity haven’t worked for a very long time.

We’re now at a turning point in the history of the UK. For the first time in over a decade the tide is turning against the current government, and the support of swing voters in marginal seats is becoming increasingly important. One of the things these voters have been repeatedly promised in recent years is an improvement to their living conditions – but they’ve been repeatedly let down by this government.

I’ve long believed that universal cash transfers to all, paid for by higher taxes on those who can most afford it, are the most effective way of coping with external shocks to the economy. Rather than targeted support like Universal Credit, which by its very nature misses entire groups of people, universalised support (like the NHS) guarantees that nobody misses out.

The time is ripe for robust, credible, radical yet popular ideas to get a fresh airing. That’s why we’re hosting the first-ever Basic Income North conference in Manchester on 28 July. It’s a chance for citizens, policymakers and local politicians to come together and hear from academics about the evidence in support of a Basic Income. We’ll also hear personal stories that make the case for a Basic Income – this testimony will tell us the difference this idea could make to millions of lives in the north of England.

With only a year or two until the next general election, now is the time to take this policy mainstream. We have a golden opportunity to extend the principle of universalism already built into our healthcare and education systems to our economic system. Our aim is to lay the groundwork for mainstream political parties to adopt Basic Income as a flagship policy in the run-up to polling day.

Timed to coincide with the publication of a groundbreaking new report into the attitudes of swing voters towards a Basic Income, our one-day conference will be informative, inspirational and entertaining. We’ve got speakers from a range of disciplines including politicians, academics and civil society activists, and even a musician to keep us entertained over lunch. We’ll be giving each attendee a pack of resources explaining how a Basic Income would work in more detail, and a ‘how to’ guide that explores how to build a movement in towns and cities across the north.

Run in collaboration with the RSA, the UBI Lab Network, and organisations from across Manchester, Basic Income North will be the launch pad for a new Basic Income campaign across our region over the next two years. Tickets are free but limited, so if you’d like to come along register now.

The UBI Lab Network is a project of Opus Independents, who also publish Now Then.

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