This time it’s the National Audit Office – the government’s own watchdog condemning the Universal Credit.
This is an opportunity for the Green Party to bring the unconditional basic (Citizens’) income centre stage. I have said this many times before (apologies to regular readers, but the message still hasn’t been heeded where it matters).
The case for the Universal Credit was set out in Dynamic Benefits: towards Welfare that works. The unlikely source is Iain Duncan’s Think Tank The Centre for Social Justice. The link should work, but it was published in September 2009, and is on page 12 (of 15 pages) on the CfSJ website.
Dynamic Benefits is excellent as an explanation of the root problem: the withdrawal of means tested benefits has exactly the same effect as a massive tax on low income. Means testing is therefore a strong work disincentive, and has been ever since it was introduced.
The report demonstrates this by a series of graphs showing the withdrawal of benefits on the same graphs as ‘real’ taxes. The result is the graph at the top of this page – a mountain of tax equivalent on the lowest incomes.
The logical, obvious response to this revelation was, and still is the basic income. But Iain Duncan Smith’s intention was not social justice. Instead, in October 2012 he imposed benefit sanctions. Again, logically these should have been out of the question until the Universal Credit, as originally proposed by the Centre for Social Justice was fully in operation, but the moribund Labour Party led by Ed Miliband did not notice. Did Caroline Lucas? I had better be careful here. Perhaps she did protest, but no reporter thought it important enough. But – apology if I am mistaken – I am fairly sure she did not make the link to the Basic income
She, or someone hoping to take the Green Party forward after the Party Leadership elections in August could remedy this serious omission now. Better late than never.