// John Lewis Partnership boss Dame Sharon White backs the idea of a universal basic income
// She says it could help tackle economic inequality in the North and also in inner London
// Her comments come as John Lewis Partnership prepares to publish its latest trading update on Thursday
John Lewis Partnership chair Dame Sharon White has publicly stated her support for the idea of a universal basic income to help overcome economic inequality in the UK.
In an interview with online news outlet Tortoise, White said the Exchequer paying regular benefits to all Brits regardless of their personal circumstances could help address economic inequality in the North and also in inner London.
She also said it would be “fascinating” to test universal basic income in different parts of the country.
- John Lewis launches interest free credit of up to £35k
- Will John Lewis’s mini shops in Waitrose help turn it around?
- John Lewis fashion buying director Christine Kasoulis to exit
“I’ve always been interested in this. I think trialling this in the UK would be fascinating whether you take the southern geography and northern geography or you look at some of the inequality issues still in parts of London – [of a] different complexion, but as sharp and difficult as some of the places in the North,” she told Tortoise.
White’s comments come as John Lewis Partnership prepares to publish its annual results on Thursday.
The concept of universal basic income has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many arguing it would help address the potential decline of paid work thanks to the rise of automation and AI – especially in retail.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak rejected calls to introduce universal basic income last year.
White became chair of John Lewis Partnership – the mutual that runs the Waitrose and John Lewis high street chains – in early 2020, just weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic escalated into a global crisis.
She has since been forced to make tough decisions to help the partnership navigate the financial impact of the pandemic, such as permanently closing down a handful of John Lewis stores, announce job cuts and cancel the annual staff bonus for the first time since the 1950s.
Prior to John Lewis, White headed up communication regulator Ofcom for five years.
She previously had a stint at the Treasury as permanent secretary, the most senior civil servant in the department, when George Osborne was Chancellor.