A Universal Basic Income is wrong for Wales

Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been touted for years now by the Left as a solution for everything, and with the cost-of-living seriously biting across our country, its advocates may think it’s time has come.

The cause already has a foothold in Wales where the Labour Government started a basic income pilot for care leavers last month, with 500 individuals set to receive almost £40,000 over two years.

The Welsh Conservatives oppose this scheme for several reasons. Firstly, its nature as a pilot means there is a cliff-edge where in two years’ time, care leavers could have this new safety net they’ve shaped their lives around taken away from them.

This leaves them in a state of uncertainty and reliant on the state to the extent that they become overly dependent on it. Labour have not provided anywhere near the necessary clarity about support from the Welsh Government about what will happen after that time.

Like they did with carers who got a one-off bonus as opposed to a proper pay rise, Labour have decided to give care leavers hand-outs rather than hand-ups. Giving out free money does not solve the underlying challenges.

We believe long-term offerings like free bus and discounted rail travel for 16-25 year-olds, enabling Further Education to lead and create apprenticeships from all Welsh Government-funded major infrastructure projects, and the UK Government’s job Kickstarter scheme are much better placed to help care leavers.

These have lasting effects that build skills and give people the confidence they need to be independent.

The lack of thought put into the basic income scheme is evident in the fact that it was not in Labour’s manifesto for last year’s election. It got left-wingers very excited when Drakeford started teasing UBI until they targeted it at care leavers only. It’s also a pilot in name only. This scheme will tell us very little about the effectiveness of UBI as the sample size is far too small to draw any conclusions.

But we know UBI doesn’t work – not just in terms of values and theory, but practice too.

UBI has been trialled in places like Canada and Finland, where they were later scrapped due to their spiralling costs and failure to promote contributions into the system. They found it encouraged a lack of ambition to work and earn.

Under UBI, the very richest in our society would receive a handout that they do not need and that hardworking taxpayers cannot afford to donate. This untargeted approach represents terrible value for money and blatant mismatched priorities if the goal is to cut poverty in Wales.

Child poverty actually grew in the last year in Wales while it shrank elsewhere in the UK. As nowhere else in our country has a basic income scheme, Labour should not see it as a solution here.

Ultimately, we should ask whether the richest people in Wales really need an additional wad of taxpayer cash? Of course not, but this would be Labour’s policy if they expand this scheme to its universal end, further fuelling the fire of inflation and harshening the cost-of-living crisis.

But why worry about this if it is focussed on care leavers? Well, Mark Drakeford’s government is in the business of state-building, evident in its intention to introduce a tourism tax and pursuit of more politicians in Cardiff Bay by expanding the size of the Senedd without anyone in Wales having a say.

It is divergence with the desire to divide. It’s part of a wider plan to make Wales completely separate from the rest of our beloved United Kingdom.

The pilot will be used as a launch pad to further that cause and set a dangerous precedent for the Labour Government to give away money with no strings attached at massive expense to the hardworking Welsh taxpayer.

The scheme alone will cost £20 million and if extended across Wales, as many campaigners and supporters of UBI are pushing for, the costs will grow to an eye-watering degree. The Labour Government have admitted that they do not have the resources to roll it out in the first place.

Where will this money come from when we have challenges in our public services to tackle in addition to the living costs making life harder for everyone?

Over 65,000 people are waiting over two years for NHS treatment, our average pay is the lowest in Britain, children here missed out on more school days due to Covid than any other UK nation, and our transport infrastructure is a laughing stock, exacerbated by Labour’s roadbuilding freeze.

Basic income schemes are the brain child of hard-left academics and would be a distraction from tackling these immense challenges, made all the harder as the Labour Government, like their nationalist counterparts in Scotland, point the finger at others rather than accept the failures occurring on their watch.

Wales is in desperate need of an economic environment that rewards work, not one that rewards inactivity, and care leavers need and deserve proper solutions, not a two year bribe. Instead, government could give care leavers extra support to train for public sector jobs where there are significant staff shortages, like in nursing.

Wales has boundless potential but, we need a government that helps the vulnerable through lasting changes, future proofing, and finding inventive solutions to fix one problem by also solving another.

A basic income scheme – universal or targeted – is not the answer.