Two distinct ideas are being promoted to help fix Britain’s broken social security system and badly depleted public services. The first idea – of basic income (BI) – seeks a guaranteed cash income for all, creating, for the first time, a condition-free income floor. Supporters claim it would cut poverty and promote empowerment. The second idea – of universal basic services (UBS) – seeks a guaranteed virtual income (or ‘social wage’) for all, by building more and better collectively provided services to meet essential, everyday needs. There are several options for reaching both goals, and both ideas reflect a mounting desire for radical change. But can both goals be achieved together and, if so, how? Can a basic income and a wider range of free public services be seen as complementary steps towards a more progressive future? How far are they compatible in fiscal and ideological terms?
Stewart Lansley and Anna Coote debated one of the hottest topics of the time.