Piloting Basic Income as Common Dividends: a report presented to the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Piloting Basic Income as Common Dividends may be downloaded here.

The Progressive Economy Forum was founded in May 2018 and brings together a Council of eminent economists and academics to develop a new macroeconomic programme for the UK. The dominant economic ideology, neoliberalism, has served to entrench inequalities, undermine public service provision, and accelerate the pace of environmental breakdown. The 2007-08 financial crisis should have been a watershed moment; instead, the same ideology prevailed unchanged, blighting our recovery and leaving us unprepared for the challenges of the 21st century.

Foreword Patrick Allen, Chair of the Progressive Economy Forum

I am delighted on behalf of the Progressive Economy Forum to have supported the preparation and launch of this report into piloting basic income for John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Our system of social security is in crisis and has moved far from the scheme devised by William Beveridge, which was intended to banish want forever and provide security from cradle to grave.

Since 2010, social security has been subjected to significant cuts and a massive redesign, of which Universal Credit is the latest example. Many benefit rates have been frozen while tax allowances are regularly uprated for inflation. Conditions and sanctions are imposed routinely on vulnerable people leaving them with no means of support or money to buy food and ineffective rights of appeal. These draconian and intrusive measures have led to stress, hunger, evictions and suicide. Food banks, which scarcely existed before 2010, are now to be found in every major town and city.

There has to be a better way and as the fifth largest economy in the world we can clearly afford to do better. No one in this country should be so poor that they cannot afford to buy food for themselves and their children. No one should be subjected to capricious sanctions that summarily take away all means of support for weeks or months at a time.

Guy Standing has promoted the concept of basic income for many years and is a world authority on the subject. Basic income has been the subject of much debate. This paper deals comprehensively with the common objections but importantly moves the debate on to the question of pilot schemes, how to design them and where they should be carried out.

An effective pilot has the ability to demonstrate the strengths or short comings of a basic income scheme. Pilots have been tried in many countries – recently Finland and the Netherlands. Now it is our turn and I hope that the next progressive government will make it a priority to design and implement a pilot.

Something must be done to reform our social security system to provide security to all our citizens and basic income could be the way to do it. If it helps to abolish sanctions and render food banks unnecessary that alone would a major achievement. But much more than this is at stake. By providing our citizens with security for their basic needs of a home, subsistence and health we lay the foundations for a prosperous and sustainable economy for the benefit of all. 


In 2018 this site reported the finding of  Populus research for the RSA  that the public as a whole is open to the idea of a Basic Income – a regular payment made by government to citizens – especially in the context of rising economic uncertainty. 40% would support local Basic Income experiments in their area, 15% would be opposed.






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