Utrecht to trial a ‘Basic Income’ system

It’s an idea whose adherents over the centuries have ranged from socialists to libertarians to far-right mavericks. It was first proposed by Thomas Paine in his 1797 pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, as a system in which at the “age of majority” everyone would receive an equal capital grant, a “basic income” handed over by the state to each and all, no questions asked, to do with what they wanted. …

Utrecht, one of the largest cities in the Netherlands, and 19 other Dutch municipalities, a tentative step towards realising the dream of many a marginal and disappointed political theorist is being made. …

Nevertheless, the municipalities are, in the words of de Boer, taking a “small step” towards a basic income for all by allowing small groups of benefit claimants to be paid £660 a month – and keep any earnings they make from work on top of that. Their monthly pay will not be means-tested. They will instead have the security of that cash every month, and the option to decide whether they want to add to that by finding work. The outcomes will be analysed by eminent economist Loek Groot, a professor at the University of Utrecht. …

Caroline Lucas, the Green party’s only MP in the House of Commons, agrees. A basic income – the Greens call it a “citizen’s wage” – has long been party policy. It did not make the cut for their manifesto because they couldn’t find a way to fund it.

But developments in the Netherlands, and a parallel pilot in Finland, have bolstered Lucas’s belief that this idea’s time has come. The Royal Society of Arts has been examining the feasibility of the idea, as has campaign group Compass. …


■ A “basic income”, first proposed by Thomas Paine is an income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis, without any means test or requirement to work.

■ It is paid irrespective of any income from other sources.

■ It is paid without requiring the performance of any work or the willingness to accept a job.

■ Advocates say it will allow people to genuinely choose what sort of employment they take, and to retrain when they wish.

■ Its proponents also claim that a basic income scheme is one of the most simple benefits models, and will reduce all the bureaucracy surrounding the welfare state, making it less complex and much cheaper to administer.

Dutch city plans to pay citizens a ‘basic income’, and Greens say it could work in the UK