London, Tower Hamlets
Mon 7th Mar 2011

Added on Tue 8th Mar 2011, 11:03am — last updated Thu 24th Mar 2011, 7:38pm


Public sector workers from Tower Hamlets today held a protest at the headquarters of Barclays Bank in Canary Wharf, London. The protest came as Barclays revealed a bonus of £6.5 million for chief executive Bob Diamond. Tower Hamlets -- the borough in which Canary Wharf is situated -- is to agree budget cuts of £70 million at a council meeting tomorrow.

Around twenty people, all living or working in Tower Hamlets, occupied the foyer of Barclays HQ while startled bankers were directed out a side entrance. Protestors from 'Tower Hamlets Uncut' brandished an unsigned cheque for £70 million -- the estimated cuts to the Tower Hamlets council budget [1] - and demanded that Barclays 'pay its share'. One banker, handed a leaflet by a schoolteacher, replied "You're scum, you'll never get anything from us."

Barclays has been criticised for tax avoidance and excessive bonuses after publishing its annual results last month, leading to widespread protests by the national 'UK Uncut' group [2].

Tower Hamlets has one of the highest rates of deprivation in the country. A recent report revealed that it has the highest proportion of children living in poverty in the UK [3]. However, funding cuts from the Conservative government are forcing the council to make at least £70 million of cuts over the next three years -- including cuts to youth services, home care services, school support services and mental health support. These come in addition to national cuts to welfare provision which will disproportionately affect people in poorer boroughs.

Local people are furious that cuts are being made to vital services while banks announce multi-million pound bonuses and avoid tax. Several major banks are located in the Canary Wharf financial district that lies within Tower Hamlets. One of these banks is Barclays, which admitted on18 February that it paid only £113 in corporation tax in 2009 -- just 2.4% of its global annual profit [4]. This revelation came three days after the bank announced bonuses of £3.5 billion in 2010 [5].

Rob Smith, 25, a teacher from Tower Hamlets, said "Bob Diamond can see my school playground from his office. His bonus alone would buy a free laptop for every schoolchild in Tower Hamlets. These banks are part of our borough, but they act as though they are on another planet." [6]

He added, "We have the highest rate of child poverty in the UK, but Barclays paid more in bonuses this year than has been spent on education in Tower Hamlets so far this century." [7]

Lisa Phillips, 37, a teacher from Tower Hamlets, said "At a time when our borough faces devastating cuts to public services, the bankers who work here are refusing to pay their fair share. Bob Diamond says the time for apologies is over, but the people of Tower Hamlets don't want apologies: we want social justice".

This is the first protest by Tower Hamlets Uncut, inspired by the UK Uncut network [8]. Further actions are planned in the coming months.


Notes to editors

[1] For more information see:





[6] Bob Diamond is chief executive of Barclays Bank. His bonus this year is expected to be £9 million.

[7] Calculation based on figures from Tower Hamlets council,


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Tower Hamlets protesters vent fury over tax at Barclays headquarters