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A motion asking the Departments of Communities and Finance and the UK Treasury to design and deliver a Covid-19 recovery Universal Basic Income (UBI) for Northern Ireland has been passed at tonight's, 10 August, Newry, Mourne and Down Council Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism meeting.

The decision makes Newry, Mourne and Down the first Council in the north to back a UBI trial.

The motion also expressed the Council's support for a pilot of a full Universal Basic Income. The motions was passed with 6 for, 5 against and 2 abstensions.

The motion was brought forward by Councillor's Patrick Brown and Councillor John Trainor.

Councillor Brown expressed his delight after the vote saying "Delighted to announce that Newry, Mourne and Down has just become Northern Ireland's first council to back a trial of Universal Basic Income!"

Councillor Patrick Brown speaking at the ERT meeting via Skype.
Councillor Patrick Brown speaking at the ERT meeting via Skype.

The Rowallane Councillor added "Thank you to all Councillors who backed the motion from Alliance, SDLP, UUP and Independent grouping. DUP abstained and Sinn Fein voted against, the motion passed 6 votes to 5."

The Motion

"In the wake of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, this Council recognises the need for a reformed, fairer welfare system that protects everyone in society. It recognises the need to provide economic security for all and invest in people to protect livelihoods and kickstart the economy.

Therefore it calls on the Departments of Communities and Finance and the UK Treasury to design and deliver a recovery Universal Basic Income (UBI) for Northern Ireland.

Additionally, this Council supports in principal the investigation of a full, permanent UBI for Northern Ireland, recognising the need for a radical overhaul of the welfare state and the positive impact this would have on poverty alleviation, inequality and mental health in particular. Council will commit to producing a plan for how a pilot of a full UBI would be implemented within the District, and formally expresses its support for said pilot."

Councillor Willie Clarke spoke of how he thought the initiative would make the rich richer "In principal what the motions trying to do I think everybody would agree . You are trying to lift the less well off out of poverty. The model we are looking at here is going to ensure that the wealthy get more money and that's Sinn Féin's difficulty"

Councillor Michael Savage said "I would support what he is proposing because we do need a plan B and we do need to recalibrate society and recalibrate our economy."

Councillor Hanna also agreed with the concept but wondered "How do you work the self-employed. Pensioners at the moment, I know some that are trying to live on less that £200 a week and it's extremely tight for them."

The decision has to be ratified at the full council meeting in September.

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