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Employment

UK Government unmoved on universal basic income pilot after Wales leads way

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford has committed to trialing a UBI, but DWP secretary Thérèse Coffey has crushed hopes of a UK government pilot

Work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey has rejected the suggestion of a Universal Basic Income pilot for the UK, stating “the answer is no” in response to questions from an MP.

Mark Drakeford confirmed the devolved Welsh government will trial a UBI – a regular payment given to everyone unconditionally so no one goes without an income – after being re-elected as Welsh first minister earlier this month. 

In the House of Commons on Monday, Swansea West MP Geraint Davies asked Coffey if the UK would consider running its own pilot as well as examining how much it would cost, citing rising food insecurity.

But Coffey responded: “My favourite question on UBI. The answer is no. Of course if the Welsh Government wishes to use the extra money it receives through the Barnett formula for undertaking other aspects, that would be a matter of whether it’s in their legal powers.

“But I’m conscious that we all want to make sure food insecurity come to an end and that’s why we’re working across government to tackle that.”

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The Big Issue recently explored the prospects of a UBI in our Future of Work special edition magazine and heard from campaigner UBI Lab Network’s Sam Gregory, who said now is the time to trial the idea properly after years of debate.

Gregory told The Big Issue: “At the UBI Lab Network, we want to pilot basic income to see how it would work in practice. Would it improve our health? What effect would it have on employment and financial security? How would giving everybody more cash to spend transform our communities?

“We can only answer these questions by trying it out – ideally in cities, towns and rural areas across all four nations of the UK.”

The Welsh Government will launch its UBI trial after seeing other pilots carried out around the world, including in Finland in recent years.

A Welsh Government spokesperson told The Big Issue: “We have followed the progress of universal basic income pilot projects around the world with interest and believe there is an opportunity to test the concept in Wales.

“There is more work to be done in this area but we are interested in developing a small pilot, potentially involving people leaving care.”

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