Poll finds that two thirds of the British public support a Universal Basic Income

The Independent has published the results of a Europe-wide poll that finds that 62% of the British public support a Basic or Citizen’s Income: click here to read the article.

This is welcome news, but it needs to be treated with caution. The poll asked respondents to say whether they would approve of a Basic Income that ‘replaces other social security payments and is high enough to cover all basic needs’. The problem with this formulation is that if the Basic Income is high enough to cover all basic needs, including housing costs, then money saved by abolishing current social security payments would not be sufficient to fund it; and that a lower Basic Income that covered all basic needs apart from housing costs would need to abolish the Personal Income Tax Allowance as well as social security payments if it was to be affordable, and so would impose losses on many low income households at the point of implementation.

A working paper, Two feasible ways to implement a feasible Citizen’s Income scheme,  published by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, contains the research results on which this verdict is based. Updated research results will appear in The Feasibility of Citizen’s Income, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan next month. The research will be updated again soon.

The working paper and the book show that a Citizen’s Income of significant size, but not enough to provide for all basic needs, is feasible, provided the current structure of means-tested benefits is left in place and everyone in receipt of benefits (including Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits and Universal Credit) has their benefits recalculated to take into account the Citizen’s Incomes being received by their households.

But having said that, the poll results are most welcome, and should encourage precisely the kind of research that the now widespread debate on Citizen’s Income deserves.