Conservatives believe in giving people who really need it a helping hand through the welfare system – and in national emergencies like we are currently experiencing, more people than usual need our support.
The Conservative government has reacted swiftly to set up the unprecedented support mechanisms of the furlough scheme, self-employed income support scheme, business grants, bounce back loans, Universal Credit uplifts, and more. West Berkshire Council alone has received over £96m from central government to distribute to residents and businesses to provide support in these unparalleled circumstances.
But these are emergency measures for drastic times. Most people would be horrified at the thought of the Government permanently paying people’s salaries while they stayed at home – making every adult and child in the country a dependent client of the state.
Universal Basic Income (UBI) is an economically ruinous and socially dubious scheme, hitherto promoted by the extreme fringes of political discourse. The idea that taxpayers should provide a permanent and comfortable living for all citizens, wealthy or not, who choose not to work, but instead pursue their own interests and desires, is the antithesis to Conservative principles of individual responsibility and rewarding effort.
The motion debated at Council this evening specifically states that UBI would replace all means-tested benefits. In order for the current incomes of the poorest in our society to be maintained, the national cost of UBI would be a colossal £660 billion EACH AND EVERY YEAR. The current annual cost of means-tested benefits to the Treasury is £52 billion. An extra £608 billion of government spending per annum is an increase of 78% and would require the effective doubling of tax rates across the board – Income Tax, National Insurance, VAT – the whole spectrum of taxes would rocket, and the economic displacement caused would be catastrophic.
If the Liberal Democrats and Green supporters of this motion argue that UBI would cost less, then make no mistake – they are arguing for the removal of current Universal Credit and replacing it with a lower level of income – cutting the income of the poorest in our society.
UBI on this scale would be a 1-year policy only – as the carnage wreaked on the national finances would necessitate an immediate U-turn, but the damage would be permanent.
We Conservatives do not believe in blowing up the economy and recklessly squandering taxpayers’ hard-earned money to give wealthy citizens extra cash to spend on luxury goods. It is rather frightening that both the Liberal Democrats and Greens have expressed support for this irresponsible policy this evening – but it is welcome that residents across West Berkshire can plainly see the immense financial recklessness which would accompany any administration graced by their presence.