Could a Universal Basic Income be the solution to the cost of living crisis?
Plus, The Full Monty at 25
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
The first item in our new Prime Minister Liz Truss’ in-tray will undoubtedly be the cost-of-living crisis. Whether the policies proposed by the new occupant on Number 10 will work we will have to wait and see. But one radical solution that is gaining ground is a Universal Basic Income or UBI. As a group proposes a micro-pilot of the idea in Sheffield, we look at how such a scheme would work and whether it could help.
As well as that we also have some analysis about whether levelling up will survive under PM Truss, a stunning picture of hot air balloons at Chatsworth and details of the 130 Heritage Open Days taking place in our region.
Catch up and coming up
Lots of you enjoyed our brilliant weekend read by Harry Shukman which took a wry look at the controversial new trend of “YouTube auditing”. You can still read that piece online here.
Last week we sent out two great newsletters out to our 781 paying members. The first was a thoughtful piece about the talking bench in Graves Park and whether working from home has increased our loneliness. And the second was about a visit I made to the Football Art Prize with former Premier League referee Uriah Rennie. An extract from that first piece is below.
Weirdly, sitting on the bench has got me thinking I might be lonely. Back when I worked in a busy newsroom I would see colleagues every day. Now, I have the odd video call but mostly it’s just me and four walls. While many people are attracted by the flexibility of these “hybrid” working arrangements, it's difficult to escape the feeling that we’ve lost something as well.
This week we’ll send out two more newsletters full of original journalism and great cultural recommendations including a visit to a new Ukrainian cafe on Abbeydale Road which is staffed by refugees. To get both and help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield, please consider subscribing using the button below. It costs just £1.34 a week if you pay for a year.
Editor’s note: We’re not that far away from 800 members now — but we still need lots more. When people make the decision to join The Tribune, the vast majority tell us they really love it. They say they like not only the long reads and cultural recommendations, but also the community of members we’re creating on our website as well. One subscriber this week wrote: “I look forward to my Tribune immensely — thoughtful pieces and comments from fellow subscribers.” Please join us.
The big picture: Up, up and away!
The Chatsworth Country Fair ended yesterday, capping three days of outdoor pursuits and exhilarating entertainment at the Derbyshire stately home. The hot air balloon show is one of the largest in the UK with up to 60 balloons gliding serenely over the beautiful Derwent Valley. The great photo above was captured by Gareth Gray (balloon_pilot on Instagram).
This week’s weather 🌦
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say a stubborn area of low pressure to the west, dragging in plenty of subtropical air, will provide the impetus for numerous showers throughout the forthcoming week.
Monday 🌦 Any early overnight showery rain clears north, then it's dry and bright for a while. Further showers are likely late on and overnight. Highs a warm and muggy 25°C.
Tuesday 🌦 Similar with another lull in shower activity for a time before another hearty scattering develops, some thundery. Highs of 22°C.
Wednesday 🌦 Another unsettled and warm day with brief bright spells and the lion's share of shower activity during the afternoon. Highs of 21°C.
Thursday 🌦 Rinse and repeat with the low still influential. Fronts or troughs continue to prime our atmosphere for further showers, some thundery. Highs of 20°C.
Friday 🌦 The low begins to move over the UK, suggesting a change from SSE winds to NW. Further showers are likely; a tad cooler with highs of 19°C.
Outlook: A bright but showery weekend is favoured with temperatures close to average. Ex-hurricane Danielle is one to watch in the mid-Atlantic for the following week.
The big story: Could a Universal Basic Income be the solution to the cost of living crisis?
Top line: Plans for a micro-pilot of a Universal Basic Income in Sheffield are being drawn up. How would one work and could it help solve the cost of living crisis?
What is UBI? A Universal Basic Income or UBI is a regular and unconditional payment given to everyone regardless of their income, wealth or work. It would replace the traditional benefits system.
UBI is paid at a fixed level that covers people’s basic needs and does not depend on their financial circumstances or work status.
Supporters of UBI claim the idea could help build more resilient economies by guaranteeing financial security for all citizens.
How would it work? A full trial of a UBI is impossible without major financial and logistical support from the government. However, a micro-pilot involving top-up payments could be used to evaluate the effect a UBI would have on health (both physical and mental) and poverty. Those involved in the micro-pilot could each get payments of around £130 a month (£1,560 a year).
Who else has tried it? Universal basic income programs have been tried in places as diverse as Kenya, Iran and Alaska. More limited UBIs have been tried in several other US and Canadian states, as well as European countries including Germany, Finland and the Netherlands. In the UK, the Welsh government has begun a UBI trial involving young people leaving care.
Is UBI a good idea? That depends on who you talk to. Some believe that it could produce benefits in terms of health and wellbeing and destigmatise and simplify an overly bureaucratic welfare system.
However, some think it could disincentivise work and reduce the amount of tax the government gets, impacting public services.
The principle of offering payments without conditions could also be unpopular and meet with resistance among the public.
Who is in favour? UBI is supported by a wide range of people from across the political spectrum (including even some on the libertarian right). In Sheffield, economist Mark Bryan from the University of Sheffield is one of those behind the idea, as is Firth Park ward Labour Councillor Fran Belbin. She told The Tribune she would like the micro-pilot to be aimed at young people in Sheffield who she says are facing huge challenges compared to recent generations. She continued:
The cost of living crisis is demonstrating the need for structural change within the economy, not least in our welfare system. The idea behind UBI is to “raise the floor” rather than provide an emergency safety net. At a time of ongoing emergency we should be exploring such alternatives, as the Welsh government is doing.
Our take: Such a radical change in policy is bound to be controversial, and is highly unlikely to happen in one fell swoop. But until we know how UBI would work in practice it’s difficult to find out the potential benefits and pitfalls of the approach. Those behind the Sheffield micro-pilot are currently lobbying Sheffield City Council and South Yorkshire’s Mayor to support their plan. We think it would make sense for them to back it.
For more information about the micro-pilot or to get involved, visit the UBI Lab Sheffield website.
Will levelling up survive new PM Liz Truss?
As expected, Liz Truss has won the contest to be new Conservative leader and will become Prime Minister tomorrow after meeting with the Queen at Balmoral. The MP for South West Norfolk beat Richmond MP Rishi Sunak by just under 21,000 votes, with the result of the contest announced shortly after 12.30pm today.
The new Prime Minister is expected to act quickly on the cost of living crisis with a cut in VAT and freeze on energy bills rumoured (it has also been suggested she may lift the ban on fracking, which would be highly controversial in South Yorkshire). In her first speech as Conservative party leader, Truss promised to deliver and said she had a “bold plan” to grow the economy and cut taxes.
Less certain, however, is the future of the levelling up policy aimed at decreasing regional inequality between wealthier and more deprived parts of the UK. Boris Johnson called the policy the “defining mission” of his government, but in her BBC interview yesterday Truss said she favoured growth over redistribution and she failed to mention levelling up at all in today’s acceptance speech.
How this might affect the party’s fortunes in South Yorkshire is an interesting point. Wins in Penistone and Stocksbridge, Rother Valley and Don Valley were key to the Conservatives’ general election victory in 2019. If they fail to deliver on their promises to these places, they could struggle to retain them at the next.
Home of the week 🏡
This beautifully presented four-bedroom terrace in Bannerdale is spread across three floors and is full of both period features and modern touches. It is on the market for £400,000.
Our media picks 🎧
“The Full Monty” at 25 🍿A brilliant piece in Rolling Stone looks at the history of the classic British strip-com which turned 25 last week. The piece looks at why the Oscar-winning film resonated with audiences so much and contains some lovely anecdotes about how the actors managed to contain their nerves when taking off their clothes in front of the 800 women bussed in for the final scene. A Disney+ TV series sequel will air next year.
Sheffield is leading the way on reuse of old department stores 🏬 Heritage campaigners in Sheffield have written a letter to The Guardian about the city’s hopes to convert — rather than knock down — the former Cole Brothers store on Barker’s Pool. The latest letter follows an announcement of a review by Historic England which could give more department stores protected status, with campaigners calling for “creative reinvention” rather than demolition.
Dig reveals fascinating finds from UK's largest prisoner of war camp ⛺ A nice piece in the Yorkshire Post about the new archaeological dig at Lodge Moor POW camp in Sheffield. The camp was used in both WW1 and WW2, and was home to 11,000 prisoners of war in the 1940s. The new dig has unearthed fascinating new finds including a paint pot, a child’s shoe and evidence of gardening on the site. Our recent piece on the Lodge Moor camp is here.
Heritage Open Days 🪦
Heritage Open Days, a 10-day nationwide festival of heritage, culture, community and history, begins in Sheffield this Friday, 9 September. 130 events are taking place in our region this year, with the overall theme being “Astounding Inventions”.
Highlights this year include Sheffield Museums’ ever-popular collection store tours (in an undisclosed location), a guided tour of Zion Graveyard in Attercliffe and the legendary Drainspotting walks with Calvin Payne. For a full list of all the events, see the Heritage Open Days website or pick up a brochure from libraries and other venues across the city.
The festival lasts until Sunday, 18 September.
Things to do 📆
Philosophy 🤔 The latest Philosophy in Pubs session will take place this Tuesday, 6 September at the Island Cafe in the Millowners Arms courtyard at Kelham Island Museum (7.30pm-9.30pm). The monthly sessions (always on the first Tuesday of the month) aim to provide a space where people can come together to share ideas about life's big questions in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Our piece on a previous PiP session can be found here.
Heritage 🏗 On Thursday, 8 September, the Sheffield Society of Architects and the Sheffield Civic Trust are hosting an “afternoon of creative collaboration” focused on potential new uses for the former Cole Brothers building on Barker’s Pool. Participants will be split up into groups to come up with ideas for the building before presenting their proposals to the group. The free-to-attend event will take place at Channing Hall on Surrey Street from 1.30pm to 7pm.
Walking 🥾 Taking place over ten days from Friday, 9 to Saturday, 18 September, the Sheffield Walking Festival features an array of enjoyable walks for the full range of abilities — from heritage routes in the city centre to wilder rambles on the Peak District boundary. All of the 35 available walks are free to attend and are led by knowledgeable and experienced walk leaders. A full list of all the walks is available on the Welcome to Sheffield website here.