Press release: HSBC branches face ‘food bank’ occupations over tax avoidance


ukuncut@gmail.com | 07415 063 231 | 07543 261 621 | @ukuncut

– Nationwide actions planned in protest at government welfare cuts

– Protests follow today’s release of G20 action plan on corporate tax avoidance

Tomorrow, HSBC branches across the country will be transformed into food banks in protest at the impact of the government’s welfare spending cuts on food poverty by UK Uncut, the anti-cuts direct action network. HSBC is being targeted for its use of tax havens and the action comes the day after the release of the G20 action plan for governments on tackling tax avoidance by multinational companies.

Actions are already planned for 13 towns and cities across the UK including London, Glasgow, Manchester, Oxford and Shrewsbury. [1] Activists have billed the day as a day of ‘creative civil disobedience’, occupying and shutting down bank branches and collecting food for distribution to local food banks.

Responding to today’s G20 report, Kirsty Walker said “This report is a long list of tweaks to try and fix a broken system, and tweaks simply aren’t enough. Government’s still need to agree what is actually going to change and we don’t trust this government when its spent the last three years doing the opposite – making it easier for companies to dodge tax. The government need to know that people want real change, not cosmetic tinkering, that’s why we’re taking action against the government’s failure to stop HSBC’s abuse of tax havens.”

Campaigners have highlighted research which has shown that 500,000 people now rely on food banks on a regular basis. [2] The number of people relying on food banks has risen by 170% in the last year alone. Nearly half of those relying on food banks did so because of cuts or delays in benefit payments, while one in five turned to food banks due to low pay. [3]

HSBC, the UK’s largest bank, has been targeted for its use of tax havens and its role in facilitating tax avoidance. Research has shown that HSBC uses tax havens more than any other UK bank, allowing it to shift its profits out of countries like the UK into jurisdictions with lower tax rates. [4] The bank has also been rocked by major tax avoidance scandals, with a Swiss subsidiary alleged to have helped UK tax payers evade £200 million as well as running thousands of offshore accounts in the tax haven of Jersey. [5]

After UK Uncut’s plans were announced the bank offered to meet to discuss activists’ concerns. [6] However despite repeated offers from UK Uncut the bank has so far rejected offers to hold a public discussion on 20 July.

Beth Thomas, a librarian from Northampton said “Half a million people now rely on food banks and the increase in their use is being driven by the government’s decision to slash benefits. To get a decent society where no one has to rely on food banks this government should stop attacking the most marginalised people and stand up to the greedy tax dodging banks.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

1 – Actions are planned to take place in Bristol, Brixton, Bromley, Exeter, Glasgow, Grimsby, Manchester, Northampton, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield and Shrewsbury. For further details and locations see http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/actions?n=&m=1&d=20+Jul+2013

2- http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/may/30/food-banks-oxfam-parliamentary-inquiry

3 – http://www.trusselltrust.org/stats

4 – http://www.actionaid.org.uk/tax-justice-campaign/ftse-100-tax-haven-tracker-the-data

5 – http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jul/29/lord-green-hsbc-tax & http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2230349/HSBC-accused-setting-thousands-tax-evading-accounts-Jersey-including-drugs-arms-dealers.html

6 – https://twitter.com/HSBC_Press/status/354193653377413120