Utrecht city council is to begin experimenting with the idea of a basic income, replacing the current complicated system of taxes, social security benefits and top-up benefits.
City alderman Victor Everhardt says the aim is to see if the concept of a basic income works in practice. ‘Things can be simpler if we base the system on trust,’ he told website DeStadUtrecht.nl.
The experiment will start after the summer holidays and is being carried out together with researchers from Utrecht University.
In theory, a basic income consists of a flat income to cover living costs which, supporters say, will free up people to work more flexible hours, do volunteer work and study. Additional income is subject to income tax.
The Utrecht project will focus on people claiming welfare benefits. One group will continue under the present system of welfare plus supplementary benefits for housing and health insurance. A second group will get benefits based on a system of incentives and rewards and a third group will have a basic income with no extras.
‘We have asked civil service experts if an experiment using basic incomes is an option and have not had a definitive “no”,’ Everhardt said. In addition, the trials fit in well with home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk’s decision to allow local authorities to experiment more with welfare benefits, he said.
‘What happens if someone gets a monthly amount without rules and controls?’ Everhardt is quoted as saying in the Independent. ‘Will someone sit passively at home or do people develop themselves and provide a meaningful contribution to our society?’
Other cities, such as Nijmegen, Tilburg, Wageningen and Groningen are interested in a similar scheme.
Earlier this year, a crowdfunding experiment using the concept of a basic income raised enough to allow Groningen campaigner Frans Kerver to live for a year on €1,000 a month.
The crowdfunding effort is continuing and the second recipient, if enough money is raised, will be decided via a raffle.