At the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP), we are committed to three things: public debate around new ideas; sustainable investment in social infrastructures; and public policy aimed at improving the quality of people’s lives. We have been inspired by experiments in universal basic income (UBI) around the world, and by a series of discussions about how to rethink economies, both local and global. In this report, we lay out some ideas about how to deliver quality of life for the UK, improve public services in ways that are affordable, and link radical policy initiatves to improved social integration and cohesion. These are ideas for debate across the broadest spectrum in the UK, including local communities. We call this set of ideas Universal Basic Services.
If we are to increase cohesion, the sense that we are “all in it together”, we must act where we can have the greatest impact and that is on the cost of basic living. Our research, presented in this paper, demonstrates unequivocally that money spent on basic services – the most fundamental building blocks for life required by every citizen in the 21st century – dramatically reduces the cost of basic living for the those on the lowest incomes. Basic services will reduce poverty because they will reduce the cost of a minimum living standard. Even if income levels remain static, it will make accessible a life that includes participation, builds belonging and common purpose and potentially strengthens the cohesion of society as a whole.
Focusing on basic services, such as housing, food, communications and transport, is, we conclude, far more effective at driving down the cost of living than spending the same money on existing services, or on redistribution. In the UK, basic healthcare and education are already free for all, and while further investment in those services is desirable, it will not affect the cost of living for those at the bottom of our society.