Cuts to Universal Credit and housing benefit announced by George Osborne before he was ousted as Chancellor have come into force, creating a cap of £20,000 for families outside London and £23,000 for families in London.
This takes no account of increases in people’s rent, bills, and the essentials of everyday life. Those with the least income are made to suffer once again, while corporation tax is cut to the lowest among the G20 nations.
Along with all its benefits, new technology is likely to mean greater automation of jobs in the future – not only in manufacturing, retail and distribution, but also among the professions. The Green Party of England and Wales supports a Universal Basic Income, a “periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement” (www.basicincome.org). This would provide a safety net to tackle the implications of automation, reduce insecurity and inequality, end the coercion built into the current benefits system, and provide people a greater choice over whether they work or spend more time volunteering, creating their own business, studying, or caring.
In an EU poll in April 2016 with 10,000 participants across Europe, 64 per cent said they would vote in favour of the idea. In Alaska 25 per cent of oil revenues were invested in a sovereign wealth fund which generates an annual citizens’ dividend. Norway did the same but is keeping the proceeds for a rainy day. The United Kingdom had its own oil boom. Between 1980 and 1990 there was a windfall of £166 billion. What happened to that money? It was spent it on the balance of payments deficit and used it to subsidise tax cuts – the top rate of tax was reduced from 60 per cent to 40 per cent. History shows us that the Conservatives are not the party of good governance of the economy, and history is repeating itself in 2016.