The principle of guaranteeing citizens a minimum level of income is , in the face of an increasingly automated economy and the need for a more flexible, tooled-up workforce, a liberal policy that the 21st century needs. We believe that ensuring some form of minimum income:
- Can create a system where people are valued as human beings and individuals, rather than seen only as a potential labour force to be pushed back out to work as soon as possible regardless of their needs or their abilities
- Would allow people the freedom to retrain as adults, improving the flexibility of the workforce and the UK’s ability to compete in the world economy
- Would give people the support they need when starting businesses, encouraging employment and entrepreneurship
- May help remove the pressure of the current welfare system, improving people’s mental and physical health and increasing the likelihood that they will be able to work or volunteer in their community
There are numerous ways to deliver the principle of a minimum income level, and it need not be a sledgehammer-like flat rate payment: the “Negative Income Tax” system delivers the same result, for example, but with less tax burden and more in the form of a tax credit than a universal handout.
We are seeking to ensure that the Lib Dems discuss universal incomes systems more, and move them towards being policy in some way or form. We accept that there are different views on implementation, and believe that this debate should be encouraged within the party; we will seek to support conference motions that support the principles of such a system, and press for universal income pilot schemes where opportunities arise, whilst working in the long run on producing a full policy paper of our own.
Our working group
As of July 2017 onwards, we’re working on setting up a working group to produce a full policy paper on some form of minimum income system, which will be chaired by George Potter, a member of the last Liberal Democrat federal social security working group and a founding member of the Radical Association. If you want to get involved or learn more, please contact us at email@example.com
We campaigned hard at the 2016 Autumn Conference for delegates to vote against the “Mending the Social Safety Net” motion, as we felt it was too cautious and too quick to rule out a wholesale overhaul of the welfare system. Whilst we were then unsuccessful, we persuaded over a third of conference voters to back our position in a tense counted vote and helped bolster support for the Social Liberal Forum amendment that abolished official Lib Dem support for the welfare sanctions system.