Wales politics

Universal basic income 'worrying and expensive'

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Media captionCemlyn Davies reports on the arguments for and against universal basic income

Paying everyone in Wales a universal basic income would be a "worrying and extremely expensive socialist experiment", an economist has warned.

Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said the idea was "attractive" and could help tackle poverty and inequality.

Supporters said it would help unemployed people who fear taking a job would lead to cuts in their benefits.

But Patrick Minford from Cardiff University's Business School said it was "not a workable scheme".

Under Universal Basic Income (UBI) everyone would receive the same sum of money regardless of whether they work or not.

There would be no requirements to show an individual is looking for a job either.

In Scotland the policy has support from across the political spectrum, with feasibility work under way ahead of possible pilot schemes in Glasgow and Fife.

Jamie Cooke, head of the RSA think tank in Scotland, told the BBC's Sunday Politics Wales programme: "Moving from a system where you aren't working to a system where you are, you won't face those penalties, you retain your consistent payment.

"You're given the security to be able to choose to work... or training, or to set up your own business in a way that is beneficial to you."

Universal basic income

Image copyright PA
  • Paid without any need for work
  • Paid irrespective of any income from other sources
  • Additional earnings would be subject to income tax
  • UK Green Party advocated similar "Citizen's Income" at 2015 election
  • Finland is trialling a basic income of €560 a month (£490) for 2,000 unemployed people
  • Unite, Britain's largest trade union, passed a motion endorsing basic income at its 2016 policy conference

However Prof Minford, who was an adviser to former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, told the programme: "This is not a workable scheme because it's far too expensive.

"It creates a tremendous tax, a disincentive for the average person further up the income scale who's paying for it all."

Image caption We'd have a job convincing the public, Mark Drakeford told the assembly

Mr Drakeford told the assembly earlier in January he found the idea of UBI "attractive in the way that it can simplify and support people who currently have to rely on a very complex set of part-time work, part-time benefits and so on".

But he added: "The political world will face a job of convincing the public about the merits of the scheme."

Asked if he was worried by Mr Drakeford's comments, Prof Minford replied: "It's quite worrying for Wales.

"I'm hoping Wales won't go the same way [as Scotland] towards this sort of extremely expensive socialist experiment".

  • Sunday Politics Wales is on BBC One Wales at 11:00 GMT on Sunday, 29 January.

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