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Hart: We’re in dark over universal basic income

  • Welsh ministers have not consulted London about Drakeford’s draft plan
  • UK government learned off pilot idea from the media 

SOUTH Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart has said that the UK Government has not been officially told about Mark Drakeford’s plan for universal basic income (UBI) pilot.

Ministers were only notified by reports in the media, Simon Hart has said.

The Labour Welsh Government is planning to test a scheme where it will pay residents £1000 a month each, despite the benefits system being run from Westminster.

Mr Hart, who holds a ministerial position as the Welsh Secretary, said neither the Treasury or the Department for Work and Pensions were consulted.

People leaving care could be ones chosen for a proposed pilot for a universal basic income (UBI) in Wales, the Welsh government has said.

UBI would be a sum of money paid to everyone, which supporters say would ensure people do not fall through gaps in the benefit system.

Others argue it is not clear whether it would be the best way to ease poverty.

The UK government, which controls benefits, said it did not think it would be an incentive to work.

But Mr Hart said: “The first we read about this was in a news story online one weekend after the Senedd elections.

“I think if there is going to be proper collaboration over something which clearly involves the Department for Work and Pensions and the Treasury, it might be quite a good idea to talk to the Department for Work and Pensions and Treasury before making the announcement.

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“Collaboration is a two-way arrangement – if our colleagues in Welsh government want to progress ideas like this, which is entirely up to them to decide they want to do so, it makes sense to talk to the departments who would actually have to administer it.”

The row comes as a think tank has recommended that the universal basic income (UBI) trial in Wales involve thousands of people.

Independent think tank Autonomy has set out a plan for a UBI pilot in Wales which could see 5,000 residents taking part in a 24-month trial.

The concept of UBI is to give every person a fixed amount of money every month. It would be enough so that every person would be able to pay for all basic essentials, regardless of whether they have another form of income.

The plan would see two parallel pilots organised at the same time – one in an urban area and one in a rural area in order to capture the diversity of Welsh society.

The pilots would include every resident in the selected areas, including children and people beyond working age, with 2,500 people taking part in each location.

Responding to Mr Hart, a Welsh government spokesperson told The Pembrokeshire Herald, saying: “We are looking at a pilot, which could involve care leavers. This is at the developmental stage at present – a team has been set up under the oversight of the minister for social justice, to scope this work further. As this work progresses, we will share our plans more widely.

“We are pleased the secretary of state is eager to be involved in discussions about a basic income pilot in Wales and we look forward to discussing this once the initial scoping work has been completed.”

The Wales Office minister David TC Davies said: “I am waiting with interest” to see details of the pilot scheme.

However, most of the scheme was in a reserved space (Westminster’s role) …I think the devolved government should be getting on with devolved matters.

The pilot would cost £50 million per year to run which amounts to 0.6% of the Welsh Government’s 2021-22 budget.