Mark Andrews: Universal Basic Income is a layabout's charter

Fancy the thick end of 20 grand, for sitting around doing naff all?

How to earn £1,600 a month
How to earn £1,600 a month

You might want to consider a move to Finchley or Jarrow, then.

The Autonomy think-tank is planning a trial of something called Universal Basic Income, which is a bit like furlough, only it goes on forever.

The idea is everybody gets £1,600 a month from the Government, in return for, er, nothing. If you want to top up your income by going to work, you're free to do so. Or if not, you can just live off the state.

Anyhow, Autonomy will select 15 people each from Finchley and Jarrow for a two-year experiment to see what they do with their bounty.

Not being funny, but you don't need to be Sigmund Freud to have a pretty good idea.

The ones from Jarrow will blow it all on Woodbines, whippets and brown ale, while the ones in Finchley will buy avocados, gym memberships and giant off-road vehicles for the school run in Golder's Green.

Joking apart, the sensible working folk will carry on as normal, stashing the money away for a rainy day. The shrewder ones will invest in the stock market or business ventures, while the feckless will blow it on expensive holidays and flash cars.

For a small number of people, such as those with caring responsibilities or severe disabilities, it will provide a welcome boost to their standard of living, and few would begrudge them that.

But then we have the layabout community, the section of society quite content to get by on £1,600 a month if it means spending their days sat on their Aris, stuffing their faces with Greggs and Deliveroo while watching This Morning in their underpants. Not to mention the work-life balance brigade, who are basically the same people, but who prefer to telephone James O'Brien bragging about their lazy lifestyles. The experience of furlough suggests this is probably a larger constituency than we care to think.

And this is where Universal Basic Income falls down. Nearly two years since furlough ended, the economy is still suffering the hangover of lost productivity. Growth stunted by labour shortages, while thousands who developed a taste for inactivity now say they have no intention of returning to the workplace.

That's before we even start to consider the inflationary pressures of bunging every Tom, Dick or Harry £19,200 a year.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. And if half the country is sat at home, who will be earning the money to pay for it?

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