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Union wants universal basic income trial in the West Midlands

Unison's 20-point manifesto  also calls for the building of genuinely affordable housing, fair public transport fares and English language lessons for new arrivals.

A leading trade union wants the West Midlands’ first elected mayor to trial a ‘Universal Basic Income’ as society faces the prospect of robots replacing workers.

In a 20-point manifesto, Unison also called for the building of genuinely affordable housing, fair public transport fares and English language lessons for new arrivals.

It also said the new mayor should nationalise the M6 Toll, and provide free public transport for 16-19 year-olds in education.

The region’s largest public sector trade union, whose members include health service and council staff, issued its manifesto to candidates battling it out to become the first West Midlands Mayor next May.

Further demands include an elected regional assembly to hold the mayor to account on behalf of the people. Currently a small committee appointed by the seven West Midlands council leaders will carry out that role.

But one of its most significant calls is for a Midlands trial on the use of a Universal Basic Income (UBI).

Ravi Subramanian Unision West Midlands regional secretary

The idea is growing in support across the globe, particularly as many jobs are likely to become obsolete or replaced by robots.

Under a Universal Basic Income (UBI) all people are given a guaranteed minimum state wage which they then top up through work. Means-tested benefits are scrapped.

The manifesto argues: “A UBI could have many benefits including helping the long-term unemployed get back into work via part-time work and providing a basic income that would allow people to undertake entrepreneurial activities.”

Unison regional secretary Ravi Subramanian said: “The election of the mayor for the West Midlands Combined Authority presents a golden opportunity for the region. This manifesto is not solely about the interests of public sector workers.

“It is a progressive, inclusive agenda around transport, education, housing, governance and the economy that, if implemented, will make the West Midlands a better place for the many, and not the few.

“Unison are asking all mayoral candidates to publicly state which of our 20 asks they will carry out if elected.”

Four candidates are currently bidding to become the first West Midlands mayor, although more may come forward in the next few weeks.

The front-runners are Labour’s Siôn Simon and Conservative Andy Street. Beverley Nielsen is standing for the Lib Dems and James Burn for the Green Party.

The Unison manifesto:

Accountability and scrutiny:

1. All policies should be developed jointly with the full engagement of all key stakeholders including trade unions

2. Three non-voting trade union seats on WMCA and seat on the key working groups

3. Develop a system to allow maximum public scrutiny of WMCA decisions to tackle criticism of distant unaccountable bureaucrats.

4.Consider the development of a proper democratically elected assembly for WMCA

Housing

5. Undertake a full housing needs assessment across the WMCA region

6. Agree a proper definition of “affordable housing” so that it meets the housing needs of people on low incomes and young people

7. WMCA to encourage all constituent and non-constituent councils to embark upon a programme of building new, green council houses.

8. Establish minimum environmental standards for new housing developments across the WMCA area

9. Ensure new homes are for local people. In London as property prices rise they have been snapped up by outside investors and left empty - this should not happen here.

10. Develop proposals to put to government for a system that ensures that land value appreciation that flows from infrastructure investment benefits the local community and not just property developers

Transport

11. Make Transport for West Midlands work for people - setting affordable fares, buying green vehicles and ensuring full integration of public transport services

Make public transport work as in London so WMCA, for example, set fares, carry out

12. Develop a plan to further extend the Metro lines

13. Develop a proper integrated cycling strategy across the West Midland to include cycle superhighways

14. Nationalise the M6 toll road so all drivers can use it without charge to ease traffic congestion

15. Establish free public transport for all 16-19 full-time further education students

Further Education

16. Develop an adult education strategy that not only provides new skills needed by the public sector and business, but allows personal development

17. Undertake localised skills audits in areas of high unemployment along with localised further education provision

18. Develop a programme of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision to allow migrants to survive, thrive and contribute fully.

19. Investigate setting up a regional union learning fund - to allow trade unions like Unison to create training and education programmes

Other

20. WMCA to run a micro-pilot on the use of a Universal Basic Income (UBI)

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