Caroline Russell

Islington has today become the first London Borough to back a trial implementation of a universal basic income following a motion proposed to Islington Council by Green Party councillor Caroline Russell. The motion calls on the government to introduce a universal basic income on a trial basis across Islington in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The council will now write to the work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey and chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak to ask them to fund a trial of the scheme in the borough after passing the motion this evening.

A universal basic income is a non-means tested payment paid to all residents of a country or area. Its proponents seek to use it as a policy which would replace most forms of welfare, and be set at a level to guarantee a basic standard of living.

Islington’s passing of the motion comes just over a month after the London Assembly rejected a similar motion calling for a trial of a universal basic income across the whole of London. The motion – proposed by Green Party of England and Wales co-leader and London Mayoral candidate Sian Berry – wasn’t backed by Labour members of the Assembly.

Speaking on the passing of the motion, Russell – who sits as both a councillor in Islington and alongside Berry in the London Assembly – said:

Universal Basic Income is an idea whose time has come. As the Covid crisis deepens and Brexit looms, the need to provide security to every single person has never been greater.

As we build back from this pandemic, it just makes sense to give people a non means tested payment providing the security of an economic floor below which they cannot fall. Not a safety net with holes, but a solid foundation upon which each and every person can stand and build from together.

I hope that Labour members of the London Assembly will now take inspiration from their colleagues at a local level here in Islington and back a trial of Universal Basic Income for Londoners.”

Russell currently sits as one of two opposition councillor in Islington, with every other councillor representing the Labour Party. Russell’s motion follows similar calls from councils elsewhere in the country, such as in Norwich.

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Image credit: Joe Dunckley – Creative Commons