Press release: HSBC branches turned into ‘food banks’ in nationwide tax protests


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– Thirteen actions from Glasgow to Exeter in protest at unnecessary government cuts

– HSBC branch on London’s Regent Street transformed into food bank as activists demand tax justice

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

PHOTOS AVAILABLE AT: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.538153569565909.1073741831.141516115896325&type=3&uploaded=1

HSBC branches in thirteen cities have been transformed into food banks as part of a national day of action called by UK Uncut, the anti-cuts direct action network. Activists argue that 500,000 people are now dependent on food banks as a direct result of the government’s austerity policies [1]. 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 tackling corporate tax avoidance.

Actions are taking place in 13 towns and cities across the UK including in Grimsby, Shrewsbury, London, Glasgow, and Manchester. [2]

In Nottingham, activists have set up a food bank blocking the entrance to HSBC with supplies of cereals, tins of food, and toilet paper. In London’s Regent Street, 100 activists brought bags of food to the store distributed the supplies, forcing the branch to close down. Meanwhile in Brixton a large crowd gathered and created a food bank inside the HSBC branch.

Campaigners cite research showing that 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. The number of people relying on food banks has risen by 170% in the last year alone. [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 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]

On Friday the finance ministers of the G20 countries endorsed an action plan to tackle tax avoidance by multinational companies. The report highlighted key flaws in the current international tax system that governments should address in the coming years.

Amy Smith, a teacher from London, said: “Nobody should be forced to rely on food banks in Britain today. But government cuts are driving ever more people to use food banks or go hungry. The government should take meaningful action to stop tax avoidance by greedy banks like HSBC, rather than scapegoating the poorest and most vulnerable people in society”.

Robert McGarr, from Northampton, said: “While families go hungry, this government of millionaires lets its friends in the banks and big business avoid billions of pounds of tax. HSBC uses more tax havens than any other UK bank, but the government is only interested in punishing the poorest rather than going after the real cause of the problem.

“The government need to know that people want real change to stop tax dodging, not cosmetic tinkering, that’s why we’re taking action against the government’s failure to stop HSBC’s abuse of tax havens.”

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

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

PHOTOS AVAILABLE AT: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.538153569565909.1073741831.141516115896325&type=3&uploaded=1

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

2 – 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

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/UKuncut/status/358222833190588416/photo/1