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A Basic Income for Cornwall

Universal Basic Income in Cornwall

The 'A Basic Income for Cornwall' report studies the prospects for implementing a basic income in Cornwall to address the regions high rates of poverty, inequality and insecure work. A collaboration between the Autonomy think tank and researchers at the University of Exeter, the report assesses the current economic outlook of Cornwall, surveys Cornish residents’ attitudes towards a basic income, reviews existing evidence of basic income trials and produces recommendations for how Cornwall could implement a basic income trial.

With growing interest across the UK in the transfromative potential of basic income – and an ongoing pilot amongst young care leavers in Wales – this report shows how the policy could drastically reduce poverty rates in the region, and redress the ongoing consequences of inequality.

Cornwall is one of the most disadvantaged regions of the UK, with high rates of poverty, inequality and insecure work.

  • 1 in 10 Cornish residents are worried about not having enough food to eat.
  • According to official government figures, 17 of Cornwall’s districts rank among the UK’s 10% most deprived in the country. 

The researchers studied three models of basic income, providing insight into how these different levels of payment could impact poverty and inequality.

  1. Model 1: an Introductory Basic Income. This model would introduce payments to individuals that are not quite sufficient to cover the basic costs of life, but would help out considerably in covering everyday expenses. Researchers found that this model would reduce overall cost of the scheme and showed that even with a modest income, a basic income could have a significant impact on people’s lives.
  2. Model 2: a Living Wage for Cornwall. A more substantial basic income scheme designed to provide individuals with enough to cover the basic costs of living. Although there is a significant cost of the scheme, it would produce large benefits for the Cornish community.
  3. Model 3: an Enhanced Standard of Living. This model explored the possibility of providing a basic income above that of the living wage which would provide a higher standard of living for recipients, in line with the recently announced basic income trial in Wales where care leavers receive £1600 a month. The researchers' analysis suggests that this would dramatically transform Cornish communities and produce a significant increase in economic security and quality of life.

The researchers found that a basic income set at the level of a living wage could:

  • Cut child poverty in Cornwall by 92%.
  • Reduce overall poverty in Cornwall by 80%, from 18% to 3.66%.
  • Substantially reduce inequality in the region (by 26% according to the Gini coefficient).

A more introductory basic income – at a much lower cost – could still almost halve poverty in Cornwall, by cutting it from 18% to 10%.

A basic income pilot in Cornwall could cost £40m. A two-year pilot of 2000 people would cost about £40 million, with each adult participant being paid £213 a week.

In comparison, the annual budget of the Cornish Council is £1.15 billion

Cornish stakeholders interviewed were optimistic about the prospect of a basic income. 

  • The universal and unconditional aspects of a basic income were supported by all the participants.
  • There was significant interest in the positive changes it could bring to Cornwall.
  • Participants reported there was a need for further discussion of the benefits of a basic income.