Press release: UK Uncut to shut down high street tax dodgers this Saturday 17th December

Posted on Thu 15th Dec 2011, 10:24pm
UK UNCUT TO SHUT DOWN HIGH STREET TAX DODGERS THIS SATURDAY 17th DECEMBER

For immediate release
Tel 07415063231
Email ukuncut@gmail.com


UK Uncut, the anti-austerity direct action group [1], will shut down scores of high street stores of tax dodging companies across the country this Saturday 17th December, with Vodafone at the top of its list of targets.

Thousands of supporters voted in a Facebook poll [2] to decide which 'tax-avoiding Scrooge or big-banking Grinch' should be 'crowned UK Uncut’s Christmas Turkey', the headline target for the day [3]. After a tense run-off, Vodafone pipped Sir Philip Green's Arcadia empire to the 'prize' of bearing the brunt of activists' ire.

People from Glasgow to Poole [4] will hit high street stores to demand the government collects the tax avoided by corporations and rich individuals instead of slashing public services. In London, protesters will stage a 'flash freeze-in' in the huge Topshop on Oxford Circus before donning UK Uncut-branded Santa suits and heading to Vodafone's flagship store on Oxford Street [5].

The nationwide day of action comes ahead of a report next week by parliament's Public Accounts Committee which is expected to be highly critical of the way HMRC struck deals with multinational corporations allowing them to avoid billions of pound in tax [6]. The report will pave the way for a National Audit Office investigation into ten large corporate tax deals, including Vodafone's let off of between £6-8billion [7].

UK Uncut supporter Daisy Cooper, 26, said: "Over the past 14 months, direct action by UK Uncut has put the issue of tax avoidance on to the political agenda with the head of HMRC forced to retire due to the dodgy deals he's struck. In the words of a Labour MP uttered just days ago: "Cosy tax deals between the government, the banks and other global corporations cannot go unchallenged.". The government's claim that 'there is no alternative' to the cuts has been exposed as a lie."

Rachel Stevens, 22, who will be taking part in the 'Freeze-In' in London, said: "Thanks to a combination of savage welfare cuts, reductions in the winter fuel allowance and outrageous profiteering from the big energy companies gone unchecked by the government, one county estimates its seasonal death rate could jump 20% as temperatures plummet. The government tell us they have no alternative to letting people freeze. It's a lie. Here's one alternative: collect the tax avoided by corporations and rich individuals, starting with Vodafone's £6bn."

Notes to editors:

[1] The day of action will see UK Uncut return to the high streets for the first time since May. Since that time, the group has closed Westminster Bridge in protest the government's NHS reforms, helped give birth to the Occupy movement, staged a creative intervention of a speech by HMRC boss Dave Hartnett with over 12,000 views on Youtube (Hartnett recently took unexpected 'retirement') and supported the public sector strikes of 30 June and 30 November. See http://www.ukuncut.org.uk
[2] http://www.facebook.com/questions/274984065882862/
[3] http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/christmas-special
[4] http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/actions
[5] The 'freeze-in' will start at 1pm on the ground floor of Topshop's Oxford Circus store. See http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/actions/772 for full details
[6] http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article3258754.ece
[7] UK Uncut first accused Vodafone of avoiding a £6bn tax bill relating to the purchase of German engineering firm Mannesmann in October last year. At the time, the claim was dismissed by the company and HMRC as an 'urban myth'. In the last month, however, a parliamentary committee has said the deal 'may have been illegal' and could have been worth up to £8bn. The deal will now be investigated as part of the judge-led review of corporate tax deals struck by HMRC. See
- http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-1704527/Taxman-let-Vodafone-off-6bn-bill.html
- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8875360/Taxman-accused-of-letting-Vodafone-off-8-billion.html
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/dec/06/hmrc-tax-deal-vodafone

UK Uncut’s Christmas Turkey is... Vodafone!

Posted on Wed 14th Dec 2011, 11:02pm


Over the last week and a half, thousands of people have voted in the polls to decide which high street target we should focus on shutting down for this Saturday's Christmas Special.

The run-off between Vodafone and Sir Philip Green's Arcadia empire closed at 11pm. UK Uncut’s Christmas Turkey is... VODAFONE!

Vodafone was the target of UK Uncut's very first action. At the time, HMRC and Vodafone dismissed the claims of a £6bn tax dodge as an 'urban myth'.

Fourteen months later, thanks to direct action taken by people all across the country, the debate is not whether the £6bn tax dodge happened, but whether it was actually as much as £8bn, and whether it may have been not just bad practise, but entirely illegal.

This Saturday, we're going to hit the high streets to shut down Vodafone again. The message to the company: the £6bn dividend you just paid to shareholders should have gone to help save our public services, and we won't stand for it. The message to parliament's Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Margaret Hodge MP: we're grateful for the work you've done so far in exposing the wrongdoing at HMRC, now keep going and get us our £6bn back.

The message to the government: the cuts you are implementing are destroying our public services and precious welfare state. You say they are necessary, that there are no alternatives. It's a lie. Here's one alternative: collect the tax avoided by corporations and rich individuals, starting with Vodafone's £6bn.

Though direct action, we've forced the issue of tax dodging on to the political agenda and already claimed the scalp of HMRC boss Dave Hartnett. Now is the time to keep up the pressure, to shout to Vodafone and parliament: we want our money back. This Saturday, hit the high streets louder, angrier and more determined than ever, sure in the knowledge we are having a real effect.

Find a Christmas Special action near you on our actions page. See you on the high streets!

Guest post: why I'm voting for Arcadia

Posted on Wed 14th Dec 2011, 10:27am
This is a guest post from a doctor currently working in the NHS who will be taking part in UK Uncut's Christmas Special this Saturday. You can find another post by someone who's voting for Vodafone here

The NHS is facing the biggest financial squeeze in its history. Across the country, diagnostic tests are being delayed, operations are being postponed and access to many patented drugs are being tightened.

Meanwhile, Philip Green sails across turquoise waters on a yacht paid for by British people: the people who buy his clothes and support his brand, but to whom he does not feel he owes anything.

For us in the NHS, not a week passes when there is not a report about understaffed and under-equipped wards leading to inadequate care and patients being exposed to risks. Sometimes I wonder if Philip Green thinks about that when he looks at his bank balance.

Study budgets for doctors are being cut year on year and access to professional development resources has been withdrawn to save money. The future clinical leaders of the NHS are not receiving the training they need as there is no money to fund it.

It’s not fair.

It’s not fair that the Government is using the financial crisis to purposefully run the NHS into the ground. It’s not fair that the Government are slowly strangling the NHS into submission as a means to introduce the private sector into the British healthcare. And it’s not fair that a government advisor, knighted by the Queen, should use dodgy loopholes to avoid paying £285m he rightfully owes.

We are told “We are all in this together”, we are told that we all have to face tough times as one. How contradictory it is, then, to see the likes of Phillip Green sitting on vast sums of money, using legal loopholes to avoid paying into the society that has put him where he is, and for the NHS that will be there if he needs it.

When hard-working public sector staff (many with high levels of student and personal debt) are working extra hours, paying more into their pensions, paying more tax and National Insurance, and facing a pay-freeze in real terms; to see a Government advisor like Phillip Green avoiding tax to the scale that he is, is frankly astonishing.

The £285 million that Green owes the taxpayer would not save the NHS on its own; but it certainly would make a huge difference. Debt-ridden hospitals currently cancelling operations would be out of the red; nurses could be employed to staff the understaffed wards and patients could be allowed access to drugs that they need.

I don’t want to see Phillip Green make an altruistic, charitable donation to British society. I don’t want him pay tax because he thinks it’s right. I want him to pay because we, as a society, know it’s right – because we refuse to live in a country doesn’t care for the sick because it’s not profitable. I want to live in a society where those that can afford it pay their way so that people are cared for when they most need it. It’s what makes us civilized.

If there’s one thing Philip Green has shown it’s that he doesn’t care much about civilization. Vote to target Topshop and Arcadia for UK Uncut’s Christmas Special, and let’s bring civil society to Philip Green’s doorstep. Let’s show him what civil society – the real Big Society, if you like – can do. Let’s teach in Topshop, bail into Burtons, and set up an NHS in BHS. If Philip Green wants to trade in Britain, he has to pay in Britain. It’s time we showed him that, like some of his recent clothing ventures, tax dodging has gone right out of fashion.

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!
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