Tag Archive: protest


VOAG Logo (Brick)5High Court rules the police have no powers to force people to give their details, when held in a kettle.

From Netpol.org, June 2013
For years it has been common practice for protesters held in a kettle (police containment) to be forced to submit to police filming and/or provide their details as a condition of leaving.  There have been countless incidents in which protesters who have tried (lawfully) to refuse these demands have been threatened with arrest, or told they could not leave the kettle.   

This should now change, as the High Court has today ruled that the police have no powers to force people to give their details, or comply with police filming and photography, simply because they are held in a kettle. Lord Justice Moses criticised police practice in no uncertain terms.  He stated,

It is unacceptable that a civilian photographer on instruction from the police should be entitled to obtain photographs for investigation and crime investigation purposes…as the price for leaving a containment. Although the common law has sanctioned containment it has done so in only restricted circumstances.

It was not lawful for the police to maintain the containment for the purposes of obtaining identification, whether by questioning or by filming. It follows that it was not lawful to require identification to be given and submission to filming as the price for release.

 The case was taken by Susannah Mengesha, who had attended a demonstration called by Occupy/UKUncut in Picadilly after a trade union march in 2011.  Susannah was there as a legal observer, and became caught in a kettle the police imposed after protesters had moved to the headquarters of Xstrata, a mining corporation in nearby Panton Street. 

After a lengthy period of time, the police containment manager decided it was no longer likely that there would be an ‘imminent breach of the peace’ and began a ‘controlled dispersal’.  Protesters were funneled through lines of police officers to a dispersal point where they were stopped and searched then allowed to leave.  Before reaching this point, however, people were forced to undergo close-up filming by police cameramen, and were told they must provide a name and address or face arrest. 

Both Susannah and other legal observers recorded that the police had told protesters they were using section 50 of the Police Reform Act.  This gives police powers to demand details on threat of arrest, where they reasonably believe a person has been engaging in anti-social behaviour.

In court, the police denied using this power, presumably aware of the difficulties in asserting that a peaceful protest equated to anti-social behaviour.  Instead they tried to defend their actions by claiming that protesters gave their name and address and submitted to filming voluntarily.  A police video was given to the judges to evidence that Susannah had complied freely – but Lord Justice Moses considered that “the video showed the contrary”.

Susannah has stated that she is ‘very happy’ with the judgement, which should change the way the police operate.  She has also forced the police to remove any record of her attendance that night from their databases. She said,

I am deeply concerned by the increasing criminalisation of protest. I do not accept that by choosing to express political dissent people automatically volunteer away their rights to personal privacy and freedoms.

Freedom of protest is under relentless attack from the state. Under the new legal aid reforms, protest law judicial review cases such as mine, which are usually the last refuge against oppressive state behaviour, would not have been possible.

Any other protesters wishing to remove data collected in similar circumstances are invited to contact Netpol or their lawyers for advice.  To contact Netpol in strictest confidence, e-mail info[at]netpol.org with a contact telephone number.Egypt, Syria, London, Liverpool, Birmingham: Join The Resistance!

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End the Workfare Programmes now!

Picket stores in the West End on May 1st after the May Day Parade.
Meet Up At Clerkenwell Green 12 Noon May 1st.

From the Solidarity Federation
As part of the ongoing campaign against the five government-endorsed work placement schemes (commonly known as Workfare), the Solidarity Federation has called for a series of lightning pickets throughout the West End of London to mark the end of the traditional Mayday Parade from Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square. join the parade, join the pickets!

 The organisation claims that its actions will focus on three of the largest businesses that have signed up for the Workfare scheme – Holland and Barrett, Greggs the Bakers, and McDonalds – and one of the Workfare service providers, A4e. There are currently five workfare programmes being run by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in conjunction with a number of private and voluntary sector companies. The five programmes are: The Work Programme, The Community Action Programme, Mandatory Work Activity, Work Experience and the Sector-based Work Academies.

The Con-Dem government, and the previous Labour government, have borrowed these “payment by results” re-employment schemes from models previously in place in Australia; schemes which failed in their intent to reduce government subsidy and led to tighter control of the schemes. (1) Here in the UK we have now witnessed six arrests on suspected fraud at the workfare provider A4e and calls in Parliament for the DWP to release all the incidents of suspected fraud within these programmes. (2) Perhaps they have just realised that Ingeus UK is 50% owned by the long-term Australian workfare provider Ingeus… (the other 50% is owned by the accountancy firm Deloitte who have frequently been fined for failing compliance issues).

The A4e scandal, the embarrassing questions raised by companies such as Argos and Tesco about the mandatory elements of these schemes at the highly publicised meeting between the government and business using workfare staff on February 29th, and the continuing campaign by Boycott Workfare, have raised the issue to such an extent that a recent Freedom of Information request has shown that three of the five workfare programmes have had the mandatory sanctions – the delay or removal of benefit payments – “temporarily” suspended. (3) What that doesn’t reveal is that claimants are now being shunted onto one of the schemes where it is still in place, with Mandatory Work Activity placements. (4)At a conference on 18th April 2012 the Con-Dem think-tank, Policy Exchange, who boast the reforms in the NHS amongst their successes, revealed the true intent behind the move towards encouraging the private sector into workfare: the reform of the Jobcentre Plus to be wholly run by private and third sector organisations (under a new scheme called “Community Link”), where the employees are also paid by performance targets – “National pay bargaining should also be ended” – increased individual claimant data-collection and profiling, the introduction of smartcards to claimants to prevent them from purchasing unnecessary items with their benefits and the increase in job-search requirements to become equivalent to the regular 35 hour working week. Claimants will continue to be means-tested, but will not be able to make a claim until they can prove they have already sought work for two weeks from the start of their unemployment. (5)

The Workfare programmes are unsuccessful re-employment schemes that continue to blame the young, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and the recently imprisoned for the incompetence and failures of successive governments to face up to the economic basis of laissez-faire capitalism. It has become acceptable to blame the vulnerable individual for their lack of employment opportunities, rather than recognise the imbalance between the need for so-called “austerity measures” and the requirement to prop-up business profits.

In continuing to believe the mythical “Big Society” will allow private enterprise to furnish the unemployed with new jobs, the government continues to fund a series of privately-owned companies with taxpayer monies despite the failure of these companies to meet their contracted targets. It is a way of making profits from the unfortunate and the impoverished. The limited numbers of “third sector” groups involved in Workfare – charities and other voluntary organisations – are usually specialist groups who are already being squeezed out of the market in favour of global providers like ATOS and Ingeus.

“The only way to halt these policies is to make them more expensive to enforce than to drop,” Song continued. “This means discouraging businesses from adopting these schemes and exposing the providers who benefit from Workfare.”

Potential sites for protest can be viewed at the following Google Map at: http://g.co/maps/wx93f


END NOTES

1.)   http://www.redpepper.org.uk/a4e-a-scandal-so-big-it-could-be-seen-from-2008/

5.)   “Personalised Welfare: Rethinking employment support and Job Centres”; Ed Holmes, Policy Exchange, 2011 pp71-3. (ISBN 978-1-907689-10-9); “No Rights Without Responsibility: Rebalancing the welfare state”; Matthew Oakley and Peter Saunders, Policy Exchange, 2011 (Hand out, headed “Summary May 2011”).

For a background to the government’s Workfare programme See:
https://suacs.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/anti-workfare-demonstration-march-3rd-2012

The VOAG joined the Kingston Anti-Cuts Group for a demonstration outside Kingston Council’s Budget meeting at the Guildhall, Wednesday, 29th February.

 The council approved cuts of over £8.6million with another £4.4million planned for next year and a further £12 million the year after. They follow cuts of over £15million last year.

Kingston Council has already made a 100 redundancies, cuts to  children’s services and £1.4million cuts to mental health facilities. At the same time the council has spent £20,000 on car park “rebranding”. A further 600 jobs are to be lost at Kingston hospital, together with £6million cuts to adult social care and services for children with Special Educational Needs. Another £500,000 is to be cut from “One Kingston” projects.

Kingston TUC, the CWU and GMB unions, the Communist Party, Kingston Anti Cuts Group, Kingston SWP, the Socialist Party, Surrey Unison, the IWW and Kingston Labour Party were represented in the 60 strong demonstration.

The demonstration was joined by the Christian Peoples Alliance, who held a candle-lit vigil and said prayers for “those less fortunate than themselves” (us), before taking off in their brand new cars.

As the Tory and Lib-Dem councillors arrived for the meeting, they were met with chants directed at the Tory council leader: “Derek Osbourne get out, we know what you’re all about- cuts, job losses, money for the bosses”. Campaigners also shouted “Save our services- stop the cuts!” and gave out leaflets to passers-by.

Kit Leary from Surrey County Unison gave a spontaneous speech to the demonstration assembled on the steps of the Guildhall, he said: “With all these job losses, it’s a time when we need our public services more than ever.” When the meeting was due to start the campaigners joined the councillors in the warmth of the Guildhall.One fat balding Tory, councillor Priyen Patel, spoke of the council becoming a “commissioning council”. This is Tory speak for privatising services, where-by public services, presently provided direct by the council, are bought, or commissioned from private companies who profiteer from the tax-payer. He spoke of boosting charities rather than providing services.

Campaigners and residents in the public gallery were outraged. They shouted “They’re not ‘savings’ they’re CUTS, call them what they are” and chanted “Shame on you!”. The mayor Councillor Patrick Codd was forced to adjourn the meeting whilst half the public gallery were escorted out of the meeting under a threat of arrest. They chanted “shame on you” and “why don’t you stand up for the people you represent?” Some of the protesters broke away from their escort to run back into the meeting via another door to continue their berating.

The demonstration attracted a very positive reaction in the local press and won some great publicity for the Kingston Anti Cuts campaign. Once again the Super-Swappies (SWP) of Kingston, who organised the event, show the rest of us how it’s done. Some of those present asked after the South London Anti Capitalists and wondered why they hadn’t come out to support the demonstration. Well, the VOAG thinks the clue is in the acronym.

A motion in support of the Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group (IRPSG) was passed at the Labour Representation Committee (Chair John McDonnell MP) Conference on 19 November by 250 votes to 6. It is a model motion for all Labour movement bodies, Labour CLPs, Trades Union Councils and other political and community organisations. Comradely Gerry Downing, Sec IRPSG.

Defend Civil Liberties: Political Status for Irish Republican Prisoners,
repeal the Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) powers.

The situation of Irish Republican prisoners in the north of Ireland continues to deteriorate; they are subject to frequent beatings and brutal strip searches in Maghaberry. From May 2011 some have been on dirty and no-shave protest, evoking memories of the blanket men and hunger strikers of the late 70s and early 80s. More than 13 years after the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) on 10 April 1998 there are still 62 Irish Republican Prisoners in Ireland and 2 abroad, not counting remand prisoners, according to the Irish Freedom Committee – POW List of 28/8/2011.

These prisoners are in jail because they oppose the partition of Ireland via the British occupation of the six north eastern counties by British Imperialism and the GFA which they contend merely seeks to legitimise this partition and occupation. None would be in jail if Britain did not occupy the six north eastern counties of Ireland.  Under the terms of the GFA those republicans still opposing the GFA and continuing to fight for a united Ireland have lost their Special Category status and are treated more or less as common criminals.

In August 2010 after a protest that went on since Easter of that year an agreement was reached and signed by the prisoners’ representatives and by the prison authorities in Maghaberry Prison. The agreement conceded the two demands of the prisoners, freedom of movement and an end to strip searching. A body scanner was provided instead. But the screws broke the agreement within weeks, the first prisoner going out to court was brutally strip searched. Colin Duffy was strip searched 8 times for a 4 day court hearing, so brutally that he had very obvious injuries and appeared in court naked from the waist up because he refused to wear a prison uniform top.

The frame up and revocation of the licences of some of those released under the GFA constitute a hidden form of internment of those who wish to continue the Republican struggle.  Human Rights campaigner Monsignor Raymond Murray has this to say on the framing of Michael McKevitt; “Evidence of paid and schooled informants resembles internment, where persons were put in jail on the suspicion, prejudice or dislike of anonymous agents. The social and political consequences of accepting evidence of a long-term paid informant like Rupert (highly paid informant David Rupert) are very serious and long-lasting. … (The document) The Framing of Michael McKevitt, (presents a) strong argument for the innocence of Michael McKevitt”.  

In like manner Michael Campbell was set up in a ‘sting’ operation by MI5, the Irish and Lithuanian intelligence agencies and jailed in Lithuania on 21 October 2011 for 12 Years. The spooks had in fact initiated the arms deal on which he was convicted. His lawyer, Ingrida Botyriene, said: “He would never be involved in arms deals and would never go to Lithuania for such an affair if he had not been provoked by secret agents.” 

Marian Price – a founder-member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement – is one of a number of political activists held without trial. To be a member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement is by no means illegal, nor is it a criminal offence to support or join this organisation. It is not proscribed by law, nor is the Irish Republican Prisoner’s Welfare Association (which Marian Price helped found) and was until her arrest and (illegal) detention that group’s secretary. Her ‘crime’ apparently is she ‘poses a significant threat to society.’! She held a piece of paper for a masked man who read a speech from it!

Marian Price was released from Armagh Prison in 1980 having been granted an RPM – a Royal Prerogative of Mercy – as she was suffering from anorexia and tuberculosis brought on by forced-feeding and ill-treatment. This means the Secretary of State was not legally entitled to order her return to prison as she had been released by Royal Prerogative of Mercy – and not on licence. The Price legal team are now thought to be preparing to launch a legal challenge in the light of this information. 

Lurgan man Martin Corey, who had served 20 years in Long Kesh, was arrested in April 2010 and his licence, was revoked, according to British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward who had him arrested. He was not released on licence either and had served an extra two years having refused to sign any such licence agreement  so as to be able to politically campaign for his republican beliefs. He is still held in Maghaberry. In October, 2009 Brendan Lillis was arrested and had his license revoked despite no charges being pressed against him for alleged involvement in an attempted robbery. He suffers from a chronic medical condition called, ankylosing spondylitis which causes the spine to fuse and, though now moved to an outside hospital he remains interned.

Mohammed Hamid was found guilty in early 2008 of “soliciting to murder” under legislation dating back to 1861, despite never actually instructing anyone to any specific act. Months of surveillance, both through undercover agents and covert recording produced no evidence at all; everything was inferred and circumstantial. He was given an extremely severe sentence of 7 ½ years, together with the “imprisonment for public protection (IPP).” This sentence is extremely controversial, amounting to a life sentence unless an individual can prove that he is no longer a risk to the public. As Hamid, based on the evidence, was never accused of a violent act, how would he be expected to demonstrate that he has reformed and is no longer a risk to the public if there was never any risk to begin with?

According to Brian Barder’s website, “Nearly half of the more than 6,000 IPP prisoners in our prisons have completed the punishment and deterrence element in their sentences: they continue to endure the harsh punishment of imprisonment, not for anything they have done — they have already been punished for that — but because our risk-terrified society is scared to release them for fear that they might one day, in some way, re-offend. They are being brutally punished for offences they haven’t committed and which they might well never commit if released. And it’s worse than an ordinary prison sentence because the IPP prisoner can have no idea when or even whether he will ever be released.” http://www.barder.com/294

These conditions in Ireland, taken together with the Islamophobia highlighted by Mohammed Hamid’s conviction are a full-frontal assault on civil liberties and threaten the liberty of every serious trade unionist and political activist. Any  serious opponent of the capitalist system would never be released if arrested under these IPP powers.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is an African-American writer and journalist, author of six books and hundreds of columns and articles, who has spent the last 29 years on Pennsylvania’s death row. His demand for a new trial and freedom is supported by heads of state from France to South Africa, by Nobel Laureates Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison, Desmond Tutu, by the European Parliament, by distinguished human rights organizations like Amnesty International, city governments from Detroit to San Francisco to Paris, scholars, religious leaders, artists, scientists, the Congressional Black Caucus and other members of U.S. Congress, the NAACP, labor unions, and by countless thousands who cherish democratic and human rights – and justice -the world over.

We therefore demand:
 1. Immediate implementation of the Agreement of August 2010 conceding freedom of movement and an end to strip searching.
2. Restoration of Political Status to all Irish Republican political prisoners in the north of Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and abroad.
3. Repatriation of Michael Campbell and no extradition to Lithuania of  his brother Liam, framed by the same secret intelligence agencies.
4. Release of Marian Price and Martin Corey and an end to arrest using the excuse of revoking the GFA license – this amounts to political censorship and a reintroduction of internment in another name.
5. Repeal the “Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection” laws: free Mohammed Hamid, free Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Download: Free Marion Price:  An IRPSP Newsletter.

In Defence Of Our Communities

The VOAG (Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford) has been passed Unison’s publi statement on the London riots, released yesterday. We congratulate Unison in speaking up and republish their statement below.

From last weekend there has been rioting and looting spreading across London. People in working class communities have looked on with fear as riots destroyed local shops and left some people homeless. Clearly we don’t support opportunistic looting or for acts of random violence. However, if we are to avoid a return to the social unrest and public disorder seen in the 1980s, this demands a response from our community and its leaders which goes beyond mere condemnation.

Why are our young people so angry and how can we unite our community?
The police.
The police killing Mark Duggan, acted as a spark for the recent riots. This was not an isolated incident. Since 1990 320 people have died in police custody (or following other forms of contact with the police). Stop and search is used as a daily form of humiliation, especially of young black men. In the student protests we saw violence used routinely against political protestors, including school students.

Tory cuts destroying our communities.
The deliberately savage reductions in public spending imposed upon our communities by the Coalition Government weaken our communities and create anger and despair.

In March Haringey Council approved cuts of £84 million from a total budget of £273 million. There was a savage 75% cut to the Youth Service budget, including: closing the youth centres; Connexions careers advice service for young people reduced by 75%; and the children’s centre service reduced. Haringey has one of the highest numbers of children living in severe poverty, and unemployment in the borough is among the highest in the UK. In London as a whole, youth unemployment is at 23%.

Lambeth Council have announced their intention to cut £76million from their budget in the next 3 years. This includes reducing adventure playground opening hours to weekends and holidays only; £1.45 million cut from Youth Centres and Holiday activities; Children’s social care cut but by £3.5million, deep cuts in the Connexions service with opening hours halved, and cuts in Buildings Schools for the Future; alternative education provision (Closing OLIVE School and cutting back Park Campus), and cutting the Young & Safe project which aims to reduce youth crime.

At the same time last year alone, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by 30 per cent to £333.5 billion. The wealthy bankers whose conduct caused the economic crisis continue to be rewarded with multi-million pound bonuses, while the jobs and pensions of public sector workers – the people dealing with the aftermath of the riots today – are under threat.

What needs to be done?
In order to avoid further riots two things are necessary. First, our police service must become transparently accountable to the communities it serves. There is legitimate and longstanding community concern about deaths arising from police action, and action to address this concern must not get lost in the cacophony of condemnation following the riots.

Secondly, the Government must reverse the disproportionate reductions in local government spending imposed upon Inner London so that we can maintain the social infrastructure which gives our young people a stake – and a voice – in our society. If the Government will not do this, then the responsibility falls upon Labour-led local authorities in London to represent the interests of their electors by fighting, with all means at their disposal, for the resources necessary to provide the vital services which sustain the cohesion of our communities.

The answer does not lie in David Cameron’s “Big Society” or Lambeth’s own “Co-operative Council” but in the defence of public services from a reckless attack by a Government which is indifferent to the social damage being wrought by their economic policies, some of the consequences of which have now been played out on the streets of London.

Lambeth Council needs urgently to review cuts already agreed and being made in services to young people in particular if we are to avoid further disorder and damage to our diverse, vibrant and tolerant community.

UNISON calls for an organised defence of public services and our communities, led by trade unions and community organisations and pledges to support a public meeting in Brixton in the next few days to discuss how to build this campaign.
A MUST READ:  Statement By Workers Power on the London Riots

A VOAG Reader’s March 26th, TUC Protest Report.

It was an impressive show of strength for trades unionism in Britain with 500,000 people heeding the TUC call to demonstrate. Anyone who thought trades unions were dated or irrelevant should think again.

It was the largest demonstration I’ve ever witnessed, but also the quietest. There was very little chanting and the march moved very slowly. The demonstration was so large that those at the front of the march arrived at Hyde Park, the finish point, several hours before others had even started. The TUC was showcasing its “modern trades unionism”. Gone was the sea of red and brass bands- and in its place was a multicoloured, blue, yellow and purple river of people. This was “family-friendly trades unionism”.

I walked quicker than the march. I wanted to see as much of it as possible. Every so often I passed a samba band or individuals in fancy dress. There were small clusters of ‘black blockers’. They were not engaged in direct actions and many appeared to be wearing masks as nothing more than a  “protest fashion”.

I saw no confrontations along the march itself. Whilst the demonstration was still progressing, splinter groups were defacing shops in Oxford Street. However most protesters weren’t aware of what was happening in other parts of the City.

I stopped for a break at Trafalgar Square. College students had made a ten foot wooden horse and were parading it around the square. An hour later I watched them set it on fire in the middle of Oxford Circus. Once I reached Hyde Park, I took a walk down Oxford Street. I saw paint splattered windows and the remains of small fires on the road, but the confrontations that had accompanied the limited damage had died down- or had moved on.
I turned towards Trafalgar Square. As I reached the Square, I came across a sound system on a trailer being pulled by a bicycle. It was travelling up the Mall in the opposite direction. A dozen people were following it, dancing as they went. It was playing a mixture of drum and base and dub-step, with an MC chanting through a microphone. I turned around and followed it up the Mall, back towards Oxford Street.

As the sound system made its way to Oxford Street, many others started to follow the sound system. In no time, there were two thousand youth behind us. Dancing, and chanting along with the music. Shoppers and bystanders looked on totally bemused.

This was a different kind of demonstration. Vibrant, energetic, but entirely peaceful. Those that controlled the microphone constantly reminded all those that followed: “This is a peaceful demonstration” and “we are not here to be violent or to vandalise”. Two thousand of us danced up the street chanting along with the music: “Down with the government down” and “One solution revolution”.

We made our way back to Hyde Park, and after a short break turned around, to return once more to Trafalgar Square.

The routes back to the Square were blocked by police –and what followed was a cat and mouse game through side streets to get around the police blocks. We eventually squeezed down an alley and into the Square to be met by cheers and applause from those already there.

We came to a stop beneath Trafalgar’s lions, music still pumping- and there we stayed. As the evening drew-on our numbers thinned to around five hundred. Groups were sitting round small fires, chatting and sharing food and wine. Many people were sitting on the steps in front of the National Gallery, listening to the music. Police were wandering around the square, but keeping a low profile- and were generally friendly.

At 11pm, a hundred riot police appeared on the North side of the square, by the side of the National Gallery. Without warning they charged into the people sitting on the stairs, kicking and hitting them with their shields and batons. As the people fled, those that were hit or were slower, were herded into one corner and detained.

More police appeared at the southern side of the square, behind Nelson’s Column. Without warning they charged at the people who were either dancing or sitting around. As police lines formed, to encircle the entire square and to “kettle” all those inside; a few of us managed to escape to the last train back to Guildford.

NOTE:
Video Report on the March (Not the author)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zii2qzGbaM&feature=player_embedded

For another account of Trafalgar Square:
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny/2011/03/trafalgar-square-police-young

The VOAG’s (Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford) library on the cuts: The truth behind the Con-Dem lies.

The VOAG has been reading a few trades-union leaflets regarding the economy and the necessity of public spending cuts. There are alternatives to public spending cuts – Click the links below to expose the lies of the coalition.Pamphlet: All Together Campaign by the TUC – Read here: 
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/tuc-all-together-capaign-myth-buster.pdf
Pamphlet on the cuts by the TUC – Read here:
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/tuc-cuts-pamphlet.pdf
Pamphlet on the cuts by the PCS union – Read here: https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/4015_nc_pamphlet1.pdf
Pamphlet: Public Spending Myths by Unison – Read here:
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/public-spending-myths.pdf

In David Cameron we have a leader whose job is to quietly legitimise a semi-criminal, money-laundering economy

‘I would love to see tax reductions,” David Cameron told the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend, “but when you’re borrowing 11% of your GDP, it’s not possible to make significant net tax cuts. It just isn’t.” Oh no? Then how come he’s planning the biggest and crudest corporate tax cut in living memory?

If you’ve heard nothing of it, you’re in good company. The obscure adjustments the government is planning to the tax acts of 1988 and 2009 have been missed by almost everyone – and are, anyway, almost impossible to understand without expert help. But as soon as you grasp the implications, you realise that a kind of corporate coup d’etat is taking place.

Like the dismantling of the NHS and the sale of public forests, no one voted for this measure, as it wasn’t in the manifestos. While Cameron insists that he occupies the centre ground of British politics, that he shares our burdens and feels our pain, he has quietly been plotting with banks and businesses to engineer the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle to the ultra-rich that this country has seen in a century. The latest heist has been explained to me by the former tax inspector, now a Private Eye journalist, Richard Brooks and current senior tax staff who can’t be named. Here’s how it works.

At the moment tax law ensures that companies based here, with branches in other countries, don’t get taxed twice on the same money. They have to pay only the difference between our rate and that of the other country. If, for example, Dirty Oil plc pays 10% corporation tax on its profits in Oblivia, then shifts the money over here, it should pay a further 18% in the UK, to match our rate of 28%. But under the new proposals, companies will pay nothing at all in this country on money made by their foreign branches.

Foreign means anywhere. If these proposals go ahead, the UK will be only the second country in the world to allow money that has passed through tax havens to remain untaxed when it gets here. The other is Switzerland. The exemption applies solely to “large and medium companies”: it is not available for smaller firms. The government says it expects “large financial services companies to make the greatest use of the exemption regime”. The main beneficiaries, in other words, will be the banks.

But that’s not the end of it. While big business will be exempt from tax on its foreign branch earnings, it will, amazingly, still be able to claim the expense of funding its foreign branches against tax it pays in the UK. No other country does this. The new measures will, as we already know, accompany a rapid reduction in the official rate of corporation tax: from 28% to 24% by 2014. This, a Treasury minister has boasted, will be the lowest rate “of any major western economy”. By the time this government is done, we’ll be lucky if the banks and corporations pay anything at all. In the Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron said: “What I want is tax revenue from the banks into the exchequer, so we can help rebuild this economy.” He’s doing just the opposite.

These measures will drain not only wealth but also jobs from the UK. The new legislation will create a powerful incentive to shift business out of this country and into nations with lower corporate tax rates. Any UK business that doesn’t outsource its staff or funnel its earnings through a tax haven will find itself with an extra competitive disadvantage. The new rules also threaten to degrade the tax base everywhere, as companies with headquarters in other countries will demand similar measures from their own governments.

So how did this happen? You don’t have to look far to find out. Almost all the members of the seven committees the government set up “to provide strategic oversight of the development of corporate tax policy” are corporate executives. Among them are representatives of Vodafone, Tesco, BP, British American Tobacco and several of the major banks: HSBC, Santander, Standard Chartered, Citigroup, Schroders, RBS and Barclays.

I used to think of such processes as regulatory capture: government agencies being taken over by the companies they were supposed to restrain. But I’ve just read Nicholas Shaxson’s Treasure Islands <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jan/22/treasure-islands-tax-havens-shaxson-review> – perhaps the most important book published in the UK so far this year – and now I’m not so sure. Shaxson shows how the world’s tax havens have not, as the OECD claims, been eliminated, but legitimised; how the City of London is itself a giant tax haven, which passes much of its business through its subsidiary havens in British dependencies, overseas territories and former colonies; how its operations mesh with and are often indistinguishable from the laundering of the proceeds of crime; and how the Corporation of the City of London in effect dictates to the government, while remaining exempt from democratic control. If Hosni Mubarak has passed his alleged $70bn through British banks, the Egyptians won’t see a piastre <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_piastre>  of it.

Reading Treasure Islands, I have realised that injustice of the kind described in this column is no perversion of the system; it is the system. Tony Blair came to power after assuring the City of his benign intentions. He then deregulated it and cut its taxes. Cameron didn’t have to assure it of anything: his party exists to turn its demands into public policy. Our ministers are not public servants. They work for the people who fund their parties, run the banks and own the newspapers, shielding them from their obligations to society, insulating them from democratic challenge.

Our political system protects and enriches a fantastically wealthy elite, much of whose money is, as a result of their interesting tax and transfer arrangements, in effect stolen from poorer countries, and poorer citizens of their own countries. Ours is a semi-criminal money-laundering economy, legitimised by the pomp of the lord mayor’s show and multiple layers of defence in government. Politically irrelevant, economically invisible, the rest of us inhabit the margins of the system. Governments ensure that we are thrown enough scraps to keep us quiet, while the ultra-rich get on with the serious business of looting the global economy and crushing attempts to hold them to account.

And this government? It has learned the lesson that Thatcher never grasped. If you want to turn this country into another Mexico, where the ruling elite wallows in unimaginable, state-facilitated wealth while the rest can go to hell, you don’t declare war on society, you don’t lambast single mothers or refuse to apologise for Bloody Sunday. You assuage, reassure, conciliate, emote. Then you shaft us.

SEVEN MORE REASONS WHY WE ALL SHOULD BE MARCHING FOR THE ALTERNATIVE ON MARCH 26TH

Disabled Housing Benefit Slashed
Government figures show about 450,000 disabled people will see their incomes cut under one of the changes planned to housing benefit. From April 2013, housing benefit for working age people in social rented homes will be linked to the size of property councils ‘believe they need’.

An assessment from the Department for Work and Pensions shows the change will leave 450,000 disabled people an average of £13 a week worse off. Many disabled people will have to leave their current home. The government will not even guarantee an alternative.

The government’s Communities Department has announced a review of councils’ statutory duties. Under the reviews proposals, councils would be allowed to decide not to provide any services to disabled people, including residential care and respite for families and carers. This is a very real threat to the lives, security and future of disabled people.

Disability Alliance policy director Neil Coyle said: “We’ve been contacted by people who’ve said that if they lose the kind of support that helps them get to work for example, if they’re no longer entitled to that support, they’ll lose the ability to be independent”.

The Great Pensions Robbery
The Hutton Report into pensions was published on 11th March. Hutton wants to raise the retirement age to 66 by 2020. Hutton claims that retiring early, say at 55, is no longer acceptable when people are living longer.

Hutton wants to do away with “generous final salary” pension schemes. Instead they will be set at the average salary across a person’s career. Thirdly, Hutton says workers should up their contribution to the pension scheme from 6.4% to 9.4%: i.e. a 3% pay cut or, with inflation running at over 5%, an 8% real pay cut. Scandalously, many unions have already agreed to this increase.

There isn’t anything generous about public sector pensions. The average pension is about £4,200 a year. The Coalition has already linked pension increases to the lower, CPI rate of inflation, so they will depreciate – by as much as £10,000 over the average retirement. http://www.workerspower.com/index.php?id=47,2797,0,0,1,0

As Unemployment Rises – Job Centre Cuts
Around 7, 000 staff in Jobcentre Plus (JCP) call centres have begun voting this week in a strike ballot over intolerable working conditions. The ballot widens a dispute which led to two days of strike action in January by more than 2, 000 workers in the seven newest contact centres, who have been forcibly moved from processing benefit claims to handling enquiries by phone.

The union says managers have “an obsession” with hitting call centre targets at the expense of providing a good quality public service. The oppressive conditions are resulting in high levels of stress and sickness, and staff are leaving at an alarming rate. Since April 2010, more than 2,700 staff have left – over 20% of the total call centre workforce of 12,800.

The ballot also follows an announcement by senior managers that they want to close more of the department’s benefit processing offices and call centres. JCP is planning to reduce staff from its current 73,000 to 65,600 by 31 March 2012. This is down from a peak of 84,000 at the end of 2009.

HSE Health And Safety Visits May Be Cut By A Third
A leaked letter from the Health and Safety Executive outlines plans to withdraw inspections from entire sectors of industry, including some where “significant risk” remains. Unannounced workplace safety inspector visits may be cut by up to a third. The possibility of an unexpected visit from either an HSE or a local authority safety inspector helps keep employers on their toes; even now, workplaces can go decades without ever seeing an inspector.

 NHS Job Cuts
50,000 NHS staff posts are set for the axe, destroying government claims that the NHS is in safe hands. The news was reported by the Anti-Cuts website False Economy, from information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

David Cameron famously claimed before the election that he would “cut the deficit, not the NHS”. However 10 months into the coalition government, the reality couldn’t be more different, with NHS cuts across the country as local health trusts struggle to save £20bn from their budgets.

The total confirmed NHS staff cuts across the country currently stands at just over 53,150 posts – and that’s before a host of trusts are expected to announce staff cuts over the next four months. The national total is already twice the previous estimate of 27,000 job cuts, published by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) last November.

Here in Guildford, the Royal Surrey has already seen four hundred job losses, together with a reduction of beds per ward. Many NHS trusts are seeing job losses of around 20% of the workforce. http://falseeconomy.org.uk/blog/more-than-50k-nhs-job-losses

Unemployment
It was reported in the guardian last week that the IMF held a conference about the financial crisis. The policy to emerge from the conference was “internal devaluation”

The idea is that countries with high labour costs relative to its trading partners will get its costs in line by lowering wages. The way they lower their wages is to force workers to take pay cuts under the pressure of high rates of unemployment.

An alternative, argued some would be to promote higher inflation in surplus countries. A higher rate of inflation would have the effect of eroding debt in real terms. A higher inflation rate will also increase the costs of the surplus countries relative to the costs of the deficit countries. It would allow the deficit countries to regain competitiveness.

The IMF and the central banks however have reaffirmed their programme of austerity and mass unemployment. Under our Capitalist system no government or bank is going to compromise its own competitiveness –however short term – for the common good.

Here in Britain, the unemployment rate is now 8%, with youth unemployment running at 20.6%. There are 2.54million presently unemployed according to the ONS, (Office of National Statistics) and another 1.19 million in part-time work because they can not find a full-time job. https://suacs.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/voice-of-anticapitalism-in-guildford-unemployment/  Unemployment is at a 17year high and is set to rise much further once the cuts proposed by the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review are implemented.

Apart from the threat of unemployment and the cuts to pensions and wages, a further attack on wages comes from the government’s plans referred to as the big society. Legions of volunteers, the government hopes will take over the running of public services where skilled workers were previously employed. The unemployed are also to be dragooned into working for their unemployment benefits, to take over the jobs once performed by fellow workers.

Families Could Lose Over £2,700 A Year Despite The ‘No Losers’ Welfare Pledge
Low and middle income families will suffer annual benefit cuts of over £2,700 a year by 2013, despite the government’s pledge that there are to be ‘no losers’ in the setting up of the new universal credit system, the TUC warned last week.

The government has said that no worker will be financially worse off when universal credits replace the current system of tax credits and benefits in April 2013. But in order to fulfil the ‘no losers’ pledge the government will have to reduce benefits before the changes take place in 2013, and so is making swingeing cuts to tax credits and benefits that will leave families thousands of pounds worse off in the run up to the April 2013 changeover.

Between April 2011 and April 2013, the government is introducing a series of welfare cuts which include reducing the amount of childcare costs that can be met by tax credits, freezing elements of working tax credit and child benefit, ending government payments to the child trust fund, and ending child benefit for higher rate taxpayers.

In addition, switching the measure for rating benefits from RPI (Retail Price Index) to CPI (Consumer Price Index) will reduce the value of key benefits over time, saving the Treasury £5.8 billion by April 2015, says the TUC. Housing benefit cuts will also lead to significant reductions in family incomes, including those of many working households. A TUC analysis shows that changes to the tax credit and benefits system alone could leave working families £2,700 a year worse off by April 2013.

Join the TUC demonstration against cuts in London, March 26th. There are coaches leaving from Guildford, subsidised by Unison. Only £2.00RTN. Click on the link at the top of the page for details.

OUR PENSIONS ARE IN DANGER
Demonstrate March 26th.

The Independent Public Service Pensions Commission, headed by John Hutton, released its report two days ago. Even before the report was released, the Government announced they were increasing employee contributions by 50%. The government also announced ahead of the report that pensions will be accrued using the consumer price index (CPI) rather than the current retail price index (RPI). This will slash about 15 per cent from the average pension values.

A crucial proposal of The Hutton report is to change public sector pensions from a final salary based pension to a “career average pension”. This follows last autumn’s proposals in the Comprehensive Spending Review to increase pension contributions by 3%. Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey, described it as a “£2. 8 billion annual ’raid’ on public sector pensions” and said: “Ministers were using the public sector pension funds as a piggy bank.”

The report supported the government’s plans to raise the retirement age to 65, which will further reduce pension calculations as people begin to retire before the pension age. It also reaffirms George Osborne’s plans for a Pension tax that seeks to impose an annual £1billion levy on members of the Local Government Pension Scheme.

Already many lower-paid public service workers cannot afford to be part of the pension scheme. One in four workers who are eligible to join the scheme opt out, and participation levels are on a downward trend. Huttons recommendations will exasperate the situation. Many workers, after a life time of public service will retire at 65 and live out their retirement in penury. A GMB Union survey of its members, who are in the LGPS (Local Government Pension Scheme) found that 39% – 53% would opt out if the Osborne Pension Tax was imposed.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS Union (Public and Commercial Services) said: “For civil servants, increased costs would go straight to the Treasury to pay off the deficit. Even the Bank of England governor Mervyn King admits it would mean the wrong people were paying for the recession and agrees with us that public spending did not cause the financial crisis”.

National Union of Teachers General Secretary, Christine Blower said: “increasing pension contributions by more than half will cost newly qualified teachers up to £61 a month and experienced classroom teachers up to £102 a month – an additional cost which will see many leaving the Teachers’ Pensions Scheme”. She added: “The real pension problem is in the private sector where two-thirds of employees are not in any employer-backed scheme. We need decent pensions for all.”

Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary, remarked yesterday: “There is a lot of nonsense talked about public sector pensions – they are not gold plated. The average is very low -in local government, the average is just over £4,000, falling to £2,800 for women”.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary said: “This is the great pension’s robbery and is completely unacceptable to fire-fighters across the UK”. “Expecting fire-fighters to work until they are 60 is wrong. Fire fighting is a physically arduous job. Peak fitness is essential where seconds can cost lives. The public will not want an ageing frontline fire and rescue service.”

“These proposals are unacceptable. The Fire Brigades Union has a warning for the chancellor. Reject Hutton’s pension proposals or you’ll be playing with fire. Fire-fighters simply won’t accept them.”

Bob Cow reacted to the report saying: “Pensions are nothing other than deferred wages – staff pay into these schemes to avoid freezing to death in their old age”. “The Hutton Review will be the spark that lights the blue touch paper of co-ordinated strike action”.

Most Union leaders are offering nothing more than vague threats of unspecified “co-ordinated action”, whilst wasting their time begging the government to sit round the table and discuss the pension issue.

The UCU (University and College Union), however are already planning strikes across the country. These are due to take place between the 17th and 24th of March. Sally Hunt, the general secretary said: “pensions compensate for the lower salaries lecturers receive for researching and teaching in universities, compared to what they would get if they chose to use their highly-specialised knowledge and skills elsewhere”.

There is a lot of misinformation about public sector pension schemes. The facts are:

  • The local government and NHS pension schemes were renegotiated in 2006 to make them sustainable and affordable.
  • Both schemes are cash rich – more is going in than coming out.
  • Currently the NHS Pension Scheme returns a surplus of £2.3bn to Treasury enabling it to fund Government spending in other areas, such as boosting state pension provision for all. The LGPS has an annual cash flow surplus of £4bn.
  • The legacy of making swingeing cuts to the pension provision for 20% of the population, or pricing them out of pension saving altogether, will be increased pensioner poverty and more pressure on state benefits and public services.
  • The average pension in public service pension schemes is very low, for example in local government, the average is just over £4,000, falling to £2,800 for women.
  • If these people didn’t save for their retirement, they would have to rely on means-tested benefits paid for by the taxpayer.
  • Pensioners are already being hit with the move from RPI to CPI to calculate annual inflation increases – this will reduce their value by 15%.
  • When the NHS scheme was renegotiated, protection was built in for current members to retain their retirement age of 60. New members have a retirement age of 65. If that agreement is broken, industrial action could follow.
  • Government cuts to local government employers grants mean that the shortfall in pension contributions has to be made up by employees. They may have to pay between 50% and 100% more for a reduced pension. This is effectively a tax on low paid workers.
  • Studies have shown that if the contributions rise too much, workers will desert the local government scheme and it could collapse.
  • The local government scheme invests more than £100billion in the UK economy. If the scheme collapsed, it would have a devastating impact on the economy.