I have written many times before that a universal Living Wage is a really bad idea, primarily because it would cause inflation which would render it pointless (that is not to say that applying it in specific areas – for example requiring companies qualifying for lower Corporation Tax in Northern Ireland to pay it – is not worth considering).
The Greens in England and Wales have instead put forward the idea of a “Basic Income”. Their Leader, Natalie Bennett, was somewhat embarrassed on the subject when she was unable to come up with anything approaching the means to pay for it on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, but that does not make it a bad idea. In fact, a Basic Income is a much better idea than a Living Wage (no doubt the Greens would support both, but let’s just leave it as an “either/or” for now).
My old friend Sam Bowman explains how it could work. Essentially, it is a “negative income tax”, ensuring that everyone earns the Basic Income but also that anyone who earns above it receives more income for so doing. It would also render out-of-work benefits and income support unnecessary, as the Basic Income would already cover them. As Sam says, the exact rate at which you would set it and the type of additional welfare for people with disabilities or long-term conditions would have to be considered. However, fundamentally the idea is sound – and actually affordable. Not for the first time, the Greens have a good idea in theory that they struggle with in practice – but there is time yet before 7 May!