Fair shares for everyone
A group in the Midlands are pooling their income and distributing it according to needs. Andrea Smith reports Share
Part-time management consultant Guy Simmons earns £322 a week – yet every time he needs a new shirt for work, he has to get the agreement of five other people.
Guy, 52, is a member of an East Midlands group called Snowball, which opposes capitalism and consumerism. The five adult members and one child pool every penny of their income, redistributing it according to need.
Youth worker Katy Wright, 36, says: “Really, we are a little welfare state, but we are people-sized. People can see in their own lives that sharing resources works.”
The group – called Snowball because they hoped that it would – grew out of the London squatters’ movement in the 1970s. Now more than 20 years old, it is one of about half-a-dozen formal, income-sharing pools in Britain.
Each has its own system. Snowball meets fortnightly. Everyone declares his or her income and requirements for cash. The first call on the kitty is for cash for food, rent and household bills. Added to this, each adult receives £17.50 pocket money a week. The youngest member, 11-year-old Hertha Taverner-Wood, receives a pound for every year of her age.
Requests are then made for childcare costs or non-NHS medical treatment, for example. These are usually agreed without question. Next people ask for cash for expenditure such as clothing – often second-hand – or conference fees.
This category of outgoings is more open to debate, but disagreements are rare as each member tries to be mindful of the others in making requests. Perhaps it is this openness that has deterred free-loaders. Wright explains: “Basically, people self-select.”
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