The Green Party reaffirms its commitment to a Citizen’s Income

On Saturday 1st March the Green Party Spring Conference passed the following resolution:

We call upon [Green Party Executive Committee] to establish a working group (WG) drawing on expertise in the fields of taxation, social security and any other relevant fields, to calculate a Citizen’s Income at a level that is reasonable and affordable. We also call for a second WG to be established to create and propose a strategy to raise public awareness and support for a Citizen’s Income. We also call on Green Party Regional Council to ensure that a Citizen’s Income is included in the manifesto for the next General Election in 2015

The motion’s proposer, Alison Whalley, said this in her address to the conference:

Citizen’s Income is a universal, unconditional, and non-withdrawable payment to every woman, man and child simply because of their status as a citizen. It is also called basic income because it is a foundation, on which a person can build their life in the economic, social and environmental spheres.

Citizen’s Income has three main advantages:

Firstly, because it is not means-tested, it will greatly alleviate the poverty trap now experienced by millions of workers, as well as those seeking work.

It is a secure income. A [Citizen’s Income] will give true flexibility to people. It will allow people to build on it through part-time or full-time work, or by engaging in socially and environmentally useful work, paid or unpaid, without financial penalty. This is much, much better than the exploitative ‘workfare’ schemes so favoured by this government.

It will promote much-needed social solidarity. Since everyone, able or unable to work, rich and poor alike, will receive a Citizen’s Income, it will remove the current perceived conflict of interest between ‘claimant’ and ‘taxpayer’: there is no stigma, for instance, in receiving Child Benefit or NHS treatments.

A CI will promote a new way of living together, as well as a new way of distributing wealth.

How will it be funded?

An organisation called the Citizen’s Income Trust has made financial projections based on a CI equivalent to the Income Support rates for single people. The scheme is close to being cost neutral within the current tax and benefit system.

Why vote for this motion now?

As we all know the prevalent goal of perpetual economic growth is not fit for purpose. A Green economy though is about living within the planet’s resources, and sharing the cake, so to speak, more equally – i.e., a steady state economy.

A CI will remove the treadmill of getting any job just to survive. It will give more choice. It will mean not being forced to take a job, like one involved with fracking, that is ecologically or socially unsound. It will unleash people’s creativity, and encourage a greater quality of life.

A steady state, green economy means learning to live with less. It will involve a profound shift in priorities and a new mentality towards consumerism. A CI makes the transition possible by protecting everyone’s livelihoods.

A carefully thought-out campaign to raise awareness about a CI will strike a real chord wtih many people, when they understand that a CI makes sense, more so now than ever before.

At the same conference, Barb Jacobson gave a speech entitled ‘poverty is political’. Here are a few excerpts:

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) for Unconditional Basic Income ran from 14 January 2013 to 14 January 2014. Despite problems at the beginning, to do with how ECIs have been set up by the European Commission, which meant that we couldn’t start collecting signatures until over two months later; despite the fact that there was no funded organisation behind it – the countries involved went from 13 to 25, and we collected the support of over 287,000 people throughout Europe. As momentum built in the two last months, the Europe-wide signatures doubled, and we doubled the number of signatures from the UK over the last two weeks of the ECI. I’m also happy to say that 34 MEPs, including both UK Green MEPs, Keith Taylor and Jean Lambert, signed a statement in support of this ECI last November. …

Why do I support unconditional Basic, or Citizen’s, Income? I have been a student, feminist, welfare claimant, waitress, secretary, journalist, community organiser, mother – all of these jobs with very little – or no – income attached. I still do some of these things. Currently I am paid to be a housing and benefits adviser, and I’m here to say that I’d be very happy if Citizen’s Income cost me my current job. …

Every week I see the problems caused by means-testing. The primary one is the high effective tax rate of 85%; if people work and still qualify for benefits, they can only keep 15% of any extra money they make. This is the real cause of the ‘benefit trap’, not the supposedly easy money. There is also the problem that with the increase of more flexible, precarious contracts, people need to spend more and more time making and adjusting their claims, with a corresponding extra burden on the bureaucracies which administer them. That is, as long as they’re not on zero-hour contracts, which means that while they might not be ’employed’ in the sense of earning money by working, they are still ‘unavailable for work.’ …

We need … to fight for a better society than what has gone before. Citizen’s Income, or what many call Unconditional Basic Income, is the best I have found so far. Surely it’s better to give people money, and let them decide what to do with it. We know that giving money to poor people increases local spending, multiplying its value by four to five times, in terms of increasing local jobs and other economic activity. And most crucially, Citizen’s Income enables us to decide how to use our time – it allows us to be free of stress, overwork, humiliation, and the bureaucratic nightmares that I encounter every week [as a benefits advisor].