Guest post: why I'm voting for Vodafone

Posted on Wed 14th Dec 2011, 9:51am
This is a guest post from an anonymous activist taking part in this Saturday's UK Uncut action in central London and in the campaign against ATOS. You can find another post by someone who's voting for Arcadia here

When UK Uncut held their first protest against Vodafone last year, a banner stuck out in my mind more than any other: ‘Cuts to welfare = £7bn, Vodafone tax dodge = £6bn.’ For me, that banner summed up the protest more than any other. Why was this enormous company being permitted to dodge tax that could help the most vulnerable? Why would ministers insist on making these cuts when there is such an obvious way to avoid them?

Since that first protest a year ago, a lot has changed. Tax chief Dave Hartnett has stepped down; the National Audit Office suspects that the Vodafone deal might be illegal; the amount of tax Vodafone has dodged could be as much as £8bn, and the government is making even deeper welfare cuts than originally planned. This is a ridiculous and unnecessary situation, particularly when you realise what the Welfare Reform Bill actually means.

According to ministers, the bill will see 94% of claimants lose Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) after a year. ESA is a benefit to help those who are disabled but still able to work. This change could affect people who have very serious illnesses, from Parkinson’s and cancer, to bowel disease, kidney failure and schizophrenia. The government is saying, if you don’t recover after a year – tough. But Vodafone’s tax dodge could pay for another year of ESA for more than 1.5million people.

We’re entering a situation where those who need extra support are treated like suspects. Now, the private company ATOS will carry out gruelling tests on the disabled to see if they deserve disability benefits. Of all the people currently incapable of work, only 9% of them met the standards set by ATOS. Do we really think 91% of people were exaggerating their illnesses? Well, no – because 70% of ATOS decisions taken to appeal are overturned. But that doesn’t matter to ATOS, because they get paid according to how many people they assess as fit.

So this is a scam, isn’t it? It’s a scam to give public services to profit-driven companies, while the tax that could pay for those services is siphoned away using dodgy backroom deals. It’s a scam by a government which seems more interested in romancing tax-dodging corporations than caring for the people it is supposed to represent.

Now it looks as though elements of the Welfare Reform Bill may be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights. A report warned elements of the bill may amount to ‘inhuman or degrading treatment.’

Vodafone, on the other hand, are dodging punishment in the same way they dodged tax. They’ve never had to explain why they chose not to pay tax that could support some of Britain’s most vulnerable citizens.

But that’s OK, because UK Uncut doesn’t need a court: UK Uncut can challenge Vodafone in the streets. So when you’re casting your vote for UK Uncut’s Christmas special, pick Vodafone. Let them know you’re onto them. Let them know you’ve got better ideas about how their tax could be spent. We don’t have to live in a society which rewards the rich and punishes the most vulnerable. Things can be different. As Vodafone themselves put it so well, it’s power to yoU(K Uncut).

This Saturday 17th December, people all over the country will be shutting down high streets branches of either Vodafone or Sir Philip Green's Arcadia empire as part of UK Uncut's Christmas Special. Vote now in the run-off, read the callout then check the actions list for an action near you!

New poll; it's now a two-horse race! Who's your tax-avoiding Christmas Turkey?

Posted on Sat 10th Dec 2011, 8:31pm

Vote now!

Over a thousand people voted in the Facebook poll to decide which tax-avoiding Scrooge or big-banking Grinch will be shut down for UK Uncut's Christmas Special on Saturday December 17th.

Now, with just one week to go before the big day of action, we've narrowed down the choice to the two naughty companies that have received the most votes so far. Who will be crowned UK Uncut's Christmas Turkey and get a roasting on the 17th- Vodafone or Sir Philip Green's Arcadia empire? You decide- so get voting!

Why vote for Vodafone?

There are at least six billion reasons why you might vote to shut down Vodafone on December 17th. Vodafone was UK Uncut’s first target and we've been shutting it down ever since. For the last ten years Vodafone has been fighting tooth and nail to avoid paying the UK government £6bn in tax it owes us. That money could have prevented every single one of the crippling cuts implemented over the past year.

Not only has Vodafone’s tax break been deemed potentially illegal, but MPs have speculated that the figure may be as high as £7 billion or even £8 billion! A casual seven or eight billion that could be used to stop cuts to essential public services and halt the dismantling of our welfare state.

This year, the company paid out over £6 billion to its shareholders in dividends. Hmm, £6 billion, wonder where that came from...

Vodafone's £6 billion tax dodge could also pay for 40 million Fortnum & Mason Classic Christmas Hampers

Why vote for Philip Green's Arcadia empire?

UK Uncut first hit Topshop in early December last year by shutting down their flagship store on Oxford Street, the biggest fashion shop in the world. In 2005, Big Phil awarded himself a staggering £1.2bn, the biggest pay check in British corporate history. But to avoid paying some £300m in tax, the dividend pay-out was channelled through a network of offshore accounts, via tax havens in Jersey and eventually to his wife’s bank account in Monaco (the lovely Tina). That money could pay for all of the planned cuts in youth services, preventing the loss of 3,000 full-time youth workers.

To make matters worse, our pal David Cameron appointed Green as an advisor on the cuts. The unelected billionaire was gracious enough to commute in from Monaco on his private jet to report his findings to the British public.

Philip Green's £300 million tax dodge could also pay for 2 million Fortnum & Mason Classic Christmas Hampers

Get voting!

Register your vote on the new Facebook poll. Once you've voted, make your choice count by getting involved in an action! Read the callout, then check the actions page for an action near you; if there isn't one, why not organise it yourself?

The winner will be announced on Wednesday so we all have time to prepare for what promises to be a real Christmas Cracker of a day. See you on the high streets!

Press release: UK Uncut respond to Hartnett's 'retirement'

Posted on Fri 9th Dec 2011, 4:00pm

For immediate release
Tel 07415063231

UK Uncut have today welcomed the announcement that Dave Hartnett is due to retire from his role as boss of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) [0].

Hartnett has repeatedly been brought in front of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to answer questions on tax deals with Vodafone and Goldman Sachs that cost the taxpayer up to £6bn and £10m respectively. The latest session ended with him being forced to deny he had plans to resign [1].

A survey last year found that he was Whitehall's most 'wined and dined' civil servant, treated by corporations 107 times in 3 years to top a survey of 172 senior civil servants [2]. MPs and commentators from across the political spectrum joined the call for Hartnett to resign [3] [4] [5].

Pressure in parliament and in the press has been a response to sustained action from protesters. Since October 2010 UK Uncut, the anti-cuts direct action group, have been using direct action and street protest to draw attention to the way in which deals are made for the super-rich, allowing them to avoid paying tax.

Recent UK Uncut actions calling for Hartnett’s resignation included protesters from UK Uncut and Occupy London blocking the entrance to the HMRC head office [6]. Another protest, on Wednesday November 9, saw UK Uncut and student activists disrupt Hartnett’s speech at The Tax Journal Conference. Dressed as executives from Vodafone and Goldman Sachs, activists presented Hartnett with flowers, wine and a card to thank him for preferential tax deals [7]. A video of the action has attracted over 11,000 hits on Youtube [8].

UK Uncut have vowed to keep the pressure on the government and corporate tax dodgers. On Saturday December 17, activists all over the country will shut down tax dodging stores on the busiest shopping day of the year. People are currently voting on an online poll to decide who should be the target of the actions- the most likely candidates are Vodafone and Philip Green’s Arcadia empire [9].

Alana Hay from UK Uncut responded to Hartnett’s announcement with the following statement: "Dave Hartnett has allowed big business and rich individuals to get away with daylight robbery. We hope that his departure brings a new way of working for HMRC, one which means that big business is not let off millions or even billions of pounds. The government must force HMRC to clamp down on tax avoidance by corporations and rich individuals and use the money to stop these unnecessary cuts to our welfare state and essential public services."


Notes to editor

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