A report by a group of London academics calls on the government to nationalise many of the things average citizens will encounter on a typical day — and that radically higher taxes should be levied to pay for the change.
A development of the idea of a universal basic income — based on the idea of a certain amount of money being paid to every citizen regardless of their means or needs — the report by University College London’s Institute for Global Prosperity calls for “Universal Basic Services” to be provided by the government.
Under the plan, “massive” numbers of new council houses would be built and offered for free, whilst a National Food Service would, like the NHS, provide meals free at point of use to those suffering “food insecurity”. The report describes the initiative as an extension of free school meals into the home.
The plan would also cover free at point of use public transport for all, as well as a telephone, internet access, and television, all funded by taxpayers.
Whilst the report suggests the giveaways could reduce some “cash benefit” payments, overall it would cost some £42 billion a year, to begin with — representing over two per cent of the United Kingdom’s whole GDP. To pay for the increase, the paper calls for “changes to tax system” — which it later reveals would mean reducing the personal allowance — the tax-free sum that all employed people enjoy before income tax kicks in.
At present, the basic allowance is £11,500 a year per person earning less than £100,000, up from £10,000 in 2014.
Making the argument for cutting the allowance to just £4,300 to pay for these services, a change that would hit the lowest-paid hardest, the report states that in return for the huge expense the policy would at least be “highly progressive”. Elsewhere, the report states that “71 per cent of students are stressed and anxious about money” as justification for the taxpayer picking up the bill.
Whilst the proposals may seem far-fetched, there is clearly an appetite for the tax and spend reforms suggested. The Guardian reports the remarks of Labour’s John McDonnell, who would be chancellor of the exchequer if Jeremy Corbyn took power, who said the paper would “help inform Labour’s thinking”, and that: “This report offers bold new thinking on how we can overcome those challenges and create an economy that is radically fairer and offers opportunities for all.”