Guest blog post: UK Unfracked

Posted on Thu 8th Aug 2013, 3:00pm
This is a guest post from Reclaim The Power! On 16-21 August, thousands of people from all over the UK will join with the residents of Balcome, West Sussex, to reclaim power for the local community, taking it back from the government and corporations that want to 'frack' in the area. Join people from the anti-austerity and environmental movements to share ideas, skills and tactics, and to take part in a big spectacular piece of direct action. All the info you need for taking part can be found here.




As millions reel from the shock doses of austerity administered by George Osborne and co, behind our backs, another theft of our collective commons is taking place. We need to turn around and face it.

Decisions are being made right now about how we will power the UK over the next 30 years. Once made, these decisions will be almost impossible to reverse. The government’s Dash for Gas could see up to 40 new Gas power stations and 64% of England covered with Fracking rigs – if public opposition doesn’t stop it. A restructuring of our energy system is under way to fill the ‘energy gap’ and unsurprisingly the plan is to fill it with fossil fuels as usual and tax breaks for crony companies.

Just last month, George Osborne unveiled the most generous tax breaks in the world for fracking. The Treasury has set a 30% tax rate for onshore shale gas production – a 50% cut off the current top rate of 62% on new North Sea oil. Caudrilla, the UK’s biggest Fracker, headed up by John Browne, has caused earthquakes in Blackpool and is currently drilling in Balcombe, despite 85% of the population wanting them out. The revolving door between energy companies and government is in full swing. John Browne, former head of BP and a current Director of Caudrilla, lobbied Ministry of Energy and Climate Change chiefs four times last year and actually works in the Cabinet Office where his role is to appoint executives to government boards – unsurprisingly Fracking Industry figureheads have been given jobs and are influencing government energy policy in their own interests.

The North of England, despite being unpopulated according to David Cameron’s father in Law Lord Howell – possibly because he doesn’t regard either scousers or geordies as people – could turn out to be the Texas of the UK for shale gas. A recent Royal Geological Society report states the UK has twice as much shale gas as previously thought with 1.3k trillion cubic feet running between Nottingham and Blackpool. Lord Howell is an enthusiastic Fracking lobbyist, recently promoting the industry in Poland where public opposition is massive and residents have sabotaged attempts to frack their lands. Poland is estimated to have the highest reserves of shale gas in Europe – 22.45 trillion cubic meters.

Both Lord Howell’s reference to the North of England as ‘desolate’ and the recent callous ‘humour’ of Energy Minister Michael Fallon joking that Sussex residents will ’see how thick their rectory walls are, and whether they like the flaring at the end of the drive!’ suggest that people are an inconvenient obstacle to profits for this government and greedy energy companies. Perhaps it would be better for Caudrilla if the residents of Balcombe – courageously putting their bodies in the way of exploratory drilling in their village – simply did not exist; a surplus humanity impeding business needs.

Osborne is talking about an energy revolution. He thinks it’s going to start in Balcombe. He’s not wrong. In response to Balcombe’s call for support to stop Caudrilla, we at No Dash for Gas and our friends from UK Uncut, Disabled People Against Cuts, Occupy and Fuel Poverty Action are moving our five-day action camp there to run from August 16-21. We had planned to re-target Big Six energy giant and fuel poverty profiteer EDF in West Burton which are a key part of the government’s Dash for Gas, but Balcombe was more urgent as a front-line of fossil fuel extraction.

Whether its the cowboy capitalism of extraction companies like Caudrilla or the monopoly stranglehold of Big Gas processors such as EDF, both are part of the same Dash for Gas. The 40 new gas power stations could have the fracked Gas of Lancashire, Sussex and Wales running through them in the next decade. The alternative is democratically controlled, sustainable clean energy.

Reclaim the Power has been likened to Climate Camp. What makes it different is the different political climate this camp is part of. It’s a climate of cuts, privatisation, dispossession and mounting economic and social injustice. It’s a climate of crisis with the biggest crisis being that of climate change and a crisis in democracy. The groups taking part have developed as a response to this climate. Our rights to determine our future, our right to decide not just how we power this country and what for, but who has power in this country are being undermined by not just by companies like Caudrilla and EDF but this government itself. Join us in Balcombe.

Let’s Reclaim the Power together.

Find out how to get involved in Reclaim the Power, what you need for the camp, and stay in touch with new developments on facebook.

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

Posted on Sat 20th Jul 2013, 12:32pm
ukuncut@gmail.com | 07415 063 231 | 07543 261 621 | @ukuncut

- 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

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

Posted on Fri 19th Jul 2013, 10:45am
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
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