Roll out universal basic services

Roll out universal basic services

Quality public services allow us all to live better lives, and should be expanded beyond health and education.

All of us, however much or little we earn, need certain things to make our lives possible – and worth living. A roof over our heads, nourishing food, education, people to look after us when we can’t look after ourselves, healthcare when we are ill, transport to take us where we need to go, and (these days) access to digital information and communications as well as water, air and energy. We need money so that we can pay for some of these directly, such as food, but there are some things we could never afford to buy outright unless we were very rich. That’s where Universal Basic Services (UBS) come in. We pool resources through taxation and act together through public institutions to make sure everyone gets what they need.

UBS is a powerful lever for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change’. In particular, Goals 3 and 4 aim for good health and wellbeing, and quality education, which is best achieved for all through quality public services. UBS could also help to promote gender equality, decent work, and responsible consumption and production, which are Goals 5, 8 and 12. 

UBS offers an alternative to market-based strategies by promoting collective responsibility through public institutions. It does not insist on direct state provision of all services but recognises that there is bound to be a central role for the state in ensuring quality and universal reach in all service areas.

Policy in practice

Projects that demonstrate the benefits or may be helped by polices like this.

  • Fossetts for the People
    Campaigners want to ensure former NHS land is used for publicly owned social housing.
  • Grasshoppers In The Park
    Parents and staff work together to provide high-quality, affordable childcare at this co-operative nursery.
  • Reading Buses
    England's second-largest municipal bus operator invests £3m a year into the network by not having to pay dividends.
  • Friendly Families nursery
    This brand new nursery provides affordable, child-centered care co-produced by parents and staff.
  • Goldsmith Street
    Winner of the 2019 RIBA Stirling prize, these eco-friendly homes are one of the first new council housing projects in a generation.
  • Nottingham City Transport
    Largest local authority-owned bus operator in England tops customer satisfaction tables.
  • Lothian Buses
    The UK's largest public bus company returns its profits to the councils that own it.
  • Scallywags nursery
    Parents collaborate with skilled staff to provide high-quality affordable care at this well-established nursery.
  • Save Druids Heath
    Residents fight council plans to rebuild their homes that ignore their community.
  • Better Buses for Greater Manchester
    Passenger-led campaign for affordable, easy, reliable, regulated buses.