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Guest blog: Day of Action for our Railways

This is a guest blog by Ellie Harrison founder and coordinator of Bring Back British Rail

Please support us this Tuesday 19 August for our national Day of Action for Public Ownership of our Railways, which coincides with the dreaded day when we find out how much our already over-priced train tickets will increase in the New Year.

In rail, as in nearly all of the essential public services and utilities which were privatised in the ’80 and ’90s, we are being ripped off. The inefficiencies of the market coupled with the ‘false’ profits extracted from taxpayer subsidies by the private Train Operating Companies, is wasting £1.2 billion a year. Privatised Rail costs us much more than it ever did, when it was run as one fully integrated public company called British Rail.

For example, Virgin Trains – the joint venture between billionaire Richard Branson and Brian Souter of Stagecoach, which runs our West Coast main line has, since 1997, taken £500 million in profit which could otherwise have been invested for the public good. Arriva Trains Wales – now owned by the German state company Deutsche Bahn – has extracted £75 million in profit since the start of its franchise in 2003 (figures from the 2013 report The Great Train Robbery).

It’s time to make a stand! We simply cannot afford to be throwing away this money. For the sake of the environment, more than anything, we must be investing in and expanding our public transport system, so that it is easy, efficient, affordable and, dare I say, even enjoyable for people as a vital alternative to cars and short-haul flights.

Of all the failures of privatisation, it is in rail where we are making most ground. Since launching Bring Back British Rail in 2009 I have witnessed public support and momentum really grow. Our small passenger-led campaign was joined by the TUC’s Action for Rail in 2012 and Compass’s new All on Board this summer. With signs that Labour is finally starting to admit to failures, now is the time we bring in more new voices to help us really put the pressure on.

We are calling on UK Uncutters to join us on Tuesday at the actions all over the country, and at our big demo in London at King’s Cross Station (see details below). Help us find new ways to draw attention to this important issue, which encompasses economic, social and environmental justice all at once. The re-nationalisation of our railways has the potential to be the ‘thin end of the wedge’ – the carrier for a new political narrative, which, if we can work together to make a reality, could pave the way for the public ownership of all our essential public services and utilities, which should never have been given away.

All on Board for Public Ownership

London action:
Tuesday 19 August 2014

7:30 – 9:00AM

King’s Cross Station

(assemble in King’s Cross Square at front of station for 8:00AM photo-op)

Join the Facebook event for all the updates, or email me to meet in London: info@bringbackbritishrail.org

Support Bring Back British Rail at:

www.bringbackbritishrail.org

www.facebook.com/bringbackbritishrail


CALL OUT: #VodafoneAGM: Occupy Online

Vodafone keep dodging tax, and the Government keep letting them get away with it.

Last year Vodafone made a profit of £294 million and paid no corporation tax. They haven’t paid a penny in corporation tax since 2011. But that’s not even their biggest tax dodge: in 2010 they were allowed to get away with avoiding over £6 billion. They still haven’t paid it back.

That’s money they owe the British public. What do you think it should be spent on?

On Tuesday July 29th at 11am, Vodafone will be celebrating their biggest day of the year – they’ve got their annual shareholder meeting in London, a chance to get together and pat themselves on the back for another year of sky high profits and rock bottom tax.

Last month people up and down the country occupied their stores to protest. On Tuesday let’s occupy Vodafone online. We can use their own social media channels against them and spread the word about Vodafone’s tax dodging, and the Government’s refusal to do anything about it.

This is only going to work if lots of people get involved. Here’s what you can do:

1. Facebook: at 11am go to VodafoneUK’s facebook page and put a comment under their latest post. Tell Vodafone what you think their dodged tax should be spent on.

2. Twitter: at 11am tweet .@VodafoneUK and use #VodafoneAGM – tell them what the £6billion they dodged in tax should be spent on. If you’ve got space, @David_Cameron and @George_Osborne as well – it’s their fault Vodafone can get away with this.

So whether you think Vodafone’s dodged tax should be spent on hospitals, schools, welfare or housing, make your voice heard, get involved and hijack their hashtag.

See you online.


Guest blog: Tax Dodging Tours

This is a guest blog from ActionAid

At ActionAid we’ve been campaigning for tax justice and exposing how big businesses dodge their taxes since 2008. We’ve come up with a fun new way to share what we’ve learnt: a tax justice walking tour around Mayfair.

Tax dodging by big business has become big news, but it’s not just the UK that’s losing out. Developing countries lose 3 times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year. There’s over $20 trillion stashed in offshore tax havens. How does big business manage to avoid taxes and how do they get away with it? If you’re curious about the answers to these questions, this walking tour is for you.

In the last few years, tax justice campaigning by ActionAid and others has made good progress, but there is still a long way to go. The point of this tour is for people to understand what’s going on and to feel inspired that there is something everyone can do about tax dodging. Whether you are totally new to tax justice or already campaigning on this, the tour is a fun way to learn and get involved.

As recent research by Oxfam and the Equality trust shows, tax dodging is driving poverty and inequality all over the world, including here in the UK. We can’t address the growing gap between rich and poor without redistributing wealth – tax is an important way of doing this. Our tour explores connections between tax dodging, inequality and poverty, at home and abroad, and gives an introduction to the exciting global and local movements for tax justice.

If you’d like to join us on a tour, we’re running them monthly. The next on is on August 9th – find out more and book your place here.


Guest blog: Hands off our Public Services! Take Action Against TTIP, 12 July.

Guest blog from James Angel, #noTTIP campaigner.

The Coalition
government have ramped up the privatisation of our public services, a
process dating back to the Thatcher government of the 80s. As our
schools and hospitals are sold off to profit-hungry business giants,
the social fabric of our society is coming under attack.

But the Tories
aren’t the only threat to our public services. Behind closed doors,
the EU and US are planning the biggest corporate power grab in a
decade. If agreed, the EU-US
trade deal (TTIP)
would
grant corporations the power to sue governments for policies that
could harm their profits. This threatens to lock-in the privatisation
of our schools and hospitals. Labour might have pledged to repeal the
Health & Social Care Act, which has opened up our NHS to
profit-making companies. But if TTIP is agreed, bringing the NHS back
under public control could become extremely difficult – any
government attempting to do this would risk being sued by supremely
powerful private investors.

Meanwhile, rules
that protect
workers, the environment, food safety, digital rights and privacy
would be undermined by TTIP, with harmful industries like fracking
and GM technologies encouraged. 

If agreed, TTIP
would have devastating and irreversible impacts on our society. But
we are being entirely shut out of the decision making process.
Negotiations are shrouded in secrecy. There is no access to the draft
text of the agreement – even for MPs. If ever there was an
agreement that politicians and big business wanted to push through on
the quiet, this is it. But we won’t let them. As politicians
and lobbyists meet in secret, the
international movement to stop TTIP is growing
.

Bringing together farmers and trade
unionists, environmentalists and privacy campaigners, new and diverse
coalitions are emerging in opposition to TTIP. Protests are gathering
pace across the EU and US, with a mass arrest of 250 protesters –
including MEPs and political candidates – at the last round of
negotiations in Brussels.

On Saturday 12 July, just two days
before the next round of negotiations on TTIP, people around the UK
are coming together to say: hands off! From
Brighton to Bradford, Cardiff to Cambridge, Sheffield to Swindon,
almost 20
actions are planned
. Hundreds of people have
pledged to take creative
action ‘with a few surprises’ in central London
,
meeting outside the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, 1
Victoria Street at 12pm. Find out about your nearest action at
www.noTTIP.org.uk


TTIP negotiators are working against
the clock. For the US this agreement must be concluded by early 2016
to avoid running up against the presidential election. We can prevent
that happening. President Obama has already been refused special
powers to negotiate the deal through congress. The European
Commission has been forced to hold a public consultation. In the UK,
MPs and MEPs who support TTIP are on the back foot and more and more
people are becoming clued-up on the threat we face. We are winning
the argument. Now, we must raise our voices together.

On 12 July, anti-cuts groups, NHS
campaigners, anti-fracking groups, major trade unions, local food
growers and many more (see the list of supporters below) will be
taking to the streets together. This is the beginning of a broad and
exciting new UK campaign, part of an international movement with the
power to defeat this agreement and strengthen the position of the
many against the few.

Join us!

www.noTTIP.org.uk
#noTTIP

The #noTTIP day of action is
supported by:

15MLondon, 350.org, Biofuelwatch,
Campaign Against Climate Change, Community Food Growers Network,
Corporate Watch, Disabled People Against Cuts, European Greens in
London, Frack Free Sussex, Frack Off London, Friends of the Earth,
Fuel Poverty Action, Globalise Resistance, GMB, Green Party London,
Green Party of England and Wales, GreenNet, IOPS, Jubilee Debt
Campaign, Keep Our NHS Public, Lewisham People Before Profit, London
Federation of Green Parties, Occupy London, Open Rights Group,
OurNHS, People & Planet, People’s Assembly Against Austerity,
Pirate Party UK, Platform, Public and Commercial Services Union
(PCS), Reclaim the Power, Red Pepper, Roj Women’s Association,
STOPAIDS, Student Stop Aids Campaign, SumOfUs, Tax-payers Against
Poverty, UK Food Group, UK Uncut, Unison, University and College
Union (UCU), War on Want, We Own It, Women’s International League
for Peace and Freedom, World Development Movement, Young Greens.


Guest blog: why I support the occupation of Westminster Abbey

This is a guest blog from Lucy, an activist from the UK Uncut London group, about why she is taking action today.

In London protesters targetted a Boots store over their tax avoidance, before moving to join disabled activists in Parliament Square

Today people from UK Uncut are supporting DPAC and Occupy as they occupy the grounds of Westminster Abbey. In this action we are opposing the government’s planned end to the Independent Living Fund. The cuts to this fund will mean that those disabled people with the highest support needs will become prisoners in their own homes or forced into institutions.

The action undertaken today may seem slightly different to the usual UK Uncut action. However, for me this is about working together to demand rights for all – not just the wealthiest or most powerful in society. This is a moment of participatory democracy in which people come together to demand rights.

For me this is personal. I grew up with narratives handed down to me by my family of visceral poverty. My granddad, one of 12, described siblings dying from treatable illnesses; of the ever-present shame and fear of the workhouse; of fear of not having enough to eat, or of being warm enough or of knowing where they would sleep. When he died in 2009 he had paid for his own funeral, the avoidance of what was for him a final shame – the paupers grave.

In his lifetime those fears were replaced with rights – the right to housing, the right to support in old age, the right to support for those who were unwell, the right to support if there was no work, rights to equal access. However imperfect these were rights nonetheless.

Today I take action because I believe that those rights have been eroded and because I do not accept the government’s claim that there is no money to fund vital public services.

I act because I am angry that corporations like Boots are enabled by our government to avoid paying taxes, while disabled people are told that they do not have the right to make decisions about their own care.

I act because I am furious that citizenship has become tied to wealth and not to fundamental rights. I am angry that we are told that the cuts are about creating choice in a market: because what kind of choice is being a prisoner at home or in residential care.

As a UK Uncut protestor I take action to seek tax justice and to ask for alternatives to the cuts. But for me this is not just a movement that seeks tax justice, it’s a movement that demands rights and equality: equality of access to education; to housing; to warmth; to physical safety and to equality before the law.

Last week I spoke to one of the DPAC protestors who will be occupying the Abbey grounds. He told me that it is getting to the stage where all rights have been removed from those with support needs, where people are committing suicide, where people feel hopeless, lost and afraid.

So I take action today in solidarity with all those that seek to put human rights and equality above profits. I take action to demand an end to the degrading, cruel and brutal austerity agenda. Please lend your support to this action and those taking part – because we all deserve those rights for which they fight.


CALL OUT: Boot Out Boots

It’s football season and it’s time to BOOT OUT BOOTS!

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1579712118921975/

The Government won’t make Boots pay, so we will!

Boots have dodged £1.3bn in Tax since 2007.

That’s £1.3bn of our money that could be spent on safe homes, schools, hospitals, women’s services, legal aid and keeping our NHS public.The tax dodged by Boots alone could pay for 78,000 nurses or 5.2m ambulance calls.

Despite numerous calls for an investigation, HMRC are not interested in looking into Boots’ dodgy tax deals. The Government refuse to make them pay yet continue to slash our much needed health and welfare services saying there is no money left.

Don’t just get angry, get your football boots ready, get your kit on, pull your socks up and join UK Uncut for a football-themed action.

Saturday 28th June 3:00PM

107 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6RA

Follow #BootOutBoots on the day for a SURPRISE…

See you on the streets!

This is action is taking place in London, if you want to take part in one near you you can organise it through the UK Uncut website. Have a look at these tips for how to organise an action, and list it here.

Like at all UK Uncut actions, it’s realy important that you know your rights. Have a look at this blog to stay safe on the day.


Know Your Rights

#VodaHome and #TaxDodgersAlliance

On June 14th, UK Uncut activists closed down Vodafone shops around the country. It was a huge success, with hundreds of people taking to the streets to oppose Vodafone’s outrageous tax dodging. You can read all about it here.

On Saturday 28th UK Uncut is going back to another tax dodger that we’ve protested at before: Boots. Boots are being investigated by the Government for avoiding £1.3bn in tax. In London, protesters will be at their store on Victoria Street, and other actions are already planned elsewhere too.

Momentum is building again. People are angry and are taking to the streets to show it. These protests are part of a wider movement against austerity, last weekend 50,000 people marched on Parliament to demand alternatives to austerity, UK Uncutters from all over the country were there as the #TaxDodgersAlliance.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!

If you’re coming along to a UK Uncut action on Saturday, as with any protest and act of civil disobedience, it’s important to know your legal rights.

At the London action on Saturday there will be legal observers from Green & Black Cross who are there to record what happens at the protest and to monitor police behaviour. If you notice anything significant, go over and tell one of them. GBC’s legal support number is: 07946 541511

GBC has some great information about protesters’ rights, as well as a model ‘bust card’ – providing simple info about what to do if you do get arrested – you can download these here and give them out on the day.

There were no arrests at any of the VodaHome actions, arrests at UK Uncut actions are rare, but the police response is unpredictable. It’s important to look out for each other and for everyone who comes on UK Uncut actions. If you’re coming, try to buddy-up with someone and look out for them.

We will have fun, we will make our resistance known. And we will look out for each other’s safety. See you on the streets!


CALL OUT: Tax Dodgers Alliance

Join the UK Uncut bloc on the #NoMoreAusterity march, June 21st

This Saturday, thousands of people will be taking to the streets of London to demand an alternative to austerity. If you are sick of this governments’ cuts and lies, tired of politicians from all of the big parties telling us that there are no alternatives, angry about super-rich tax dodgers getting a free ride, then come and join the UK Uncut bloc on the demo.




Meet 12:15pm Bedford Square, London, WC1B

Come and join the newly formed ‘Tax Dodgers Alliance’. Big businesses and the super wealthy are welcome. Bankers, lawyers, CEOs, new money, old money… What do we have in common? We’re stinking rich & we don’t want to share – our cash is offshore.

Come dressed as a tax dodger – are you going to be suited and booted or in your best holiday gear just back from visiting your favourite tax haven?

Bring placards and banners fitting for the Tax Dodgers Alliance. Here are some ideas: “Tax is for little people”, ‘I’m with Gary Barlow’, ‘Who needs the NHS?’

Marching alone won’t stop the cuts. We need to be taking direct action against the government and the tax dodgers. Watch this space for an announcement about UK Uncut’s next action. But marches are an important way to come together and show our strength. And they can be fun.

See you on the streets

Demonstration route:
The Tax Dodgers Alliance bloc will meet at Bedford Square, then join the main march from the BBC’s doorstep, marching through central London, and ending with a free festival outside Parliament.

Transport to London:
There are coaches coming from over 40 locations to the demonstration, many of them for free with new coaches being booked all the time! Find your nearest one here.


Guest blog: a Small Spark of Hope

This is a guest blog by Maddy Evans, one of the coordinators of the Economic Justice Project, on behalf of the Jubilee Debt Campaign

On Monday, St Peter’s Community Hall in Bethnal Green, London, will be transformed into The Spark: a week-long hub of social justice workshops, discussions, music, art, poetry and more.

With almost 50 sessions, The Spark looks at topics from privatisation to policing, from political poetry to young people’s voice in film and media, from economics to the environment. It brings together a wide range of groups working on diverse social justice issues in the UK and globally. As well as promoting an understanding of the issues, it aims to provide space to speak and perform the hope and despair, the joy, and the rage, that flows from this understanding and to build new relationships and networks to contribute to a stronger movement for social and economic justice in the UK.

I keep hearing people say that progressive movements in the UK have lost hope and offer no positive alternatives. I’m not sure about that – I don’t feel hopeless when I hear about the tenacious, inventive & politician-arse-kicking campaigning of the E15 mothers (now launching their ‘Focus on the Future’ campaign), or the victories of the 3cosas campaign , or even just when I raise my voice at My Heart Sings (renamed The Spark Sings for one week only) with a group of joyful women, inspired to work for social justice at home, at work and in the world.

And, if none of that does it for you check out the Friday night session where Selma James, a life-long activist, feminist author and critic, Clara Osagiede, a leader of the successful London Underground cleaners’ living wage campaign, and Zena Edwards, amazing spoken word artist, will all speak about how they have kept hope alive through dark times, and stayed committed to social change. We hope people will leave the Spark with a renewed sense of excitement about getting active, or staying active, on social justice – especially in difficult times.

Saturday the 21 June sees a full day of sessions focussed on intersectionality and liberation. Not sure what ‘intersectionality’ means? Don’t worry! The day includes a starter session explaining ‘what intersectionality is, and why it’s important for social justice struggles’, followed by sessions on organising accessible events, inequality and under representation on the left, solidarity organising, using music to empower communities, and islamophobia and women’s liberation.

The Spark is being organised by a group of individuals from a wide range of social justice focused groups including London Roots Collective, Black Feminists, UK Uncut, Algeria Solidarity Campaign, AMP (art and politics must meet), People & Planet and Jubilee Debt Campaign for the Economic Justice Project, youth and refugee organisations, and others.

We hope to see you there.

Find out more and sign up: www.thesparkspace.org

This blog was first published at Open Democracy


Press release: 12 actions across the UK

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tel: 07415 063 231 | 07823 934 863

Email ukuncut@gmail.com

@UKUncut

Photos available free here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.684454004935864.1073741838.141516115896325&type=1

* Protesters shut down Vodafone’s flagship store on Oxford Street for over two hours.[1]

* 12 actions took place across the country including in central London, Cornwall and Manchester.[2]
* Flagship store blockaded by mothers, babies and disabled activists

Ten Vodafone stores were successfully targeted today over the company’s alleged tax avoidance in UK Uncut’s biggest day of action of 2014. Actions took place from Cornwall to Glasgow with hundreds of people estimated to have taken part.

In London, protesters shut down Vodafone’s flagship store on Oxford Street for over two hours. Focus E15, a group of single mothers and their children joined the protest along with disabled activists and UK Uncut. Despite scuffles with Vodafone’s private security, the group blockaded the doors and held a protest inside and outside the store. The protest transformed the store into a house warming party with games, music and dancing.

Protesters are demanding Vodafone pay the billions in tax owed to the public purse and that the government force corporations to pay up. UK Uncut says the protests highlight the current “social housing crisis”, which they claim the Government are making worse by cutting housing benefits, slashing funding for affordable homes and failing to build social housing. Current estimates suggest that 1.6 million families are on the waiting list for social housing and that 50,000 people face eviction due to the bedroom tax.[3]

Vodafone was the first company to be targeted in a series of high-profile protests by UK Uncut for avoiding a £6bn tax bill in 2010.[4] It was recently revealed that Vodafone have not paid any corporation tax in the UK since 2011 despite making a post-tax profit of £59.4bn this year.[5] The protests are taking place just six weeks before Vodafone’s AGM and less than a year before the general election in which the government’s record on tackling tax avoidance while slashing public spending will be centre stage.

UK Uncut activist Emma Sanchez, 32, said “We had a great party in Vodafone’s flagship store with mums, kids, babies, disabled activists and lots of passers-by joining in. We are sick of the government letting corporations like Vodafone dodge billions every year whilst millions of people are left without decent safe housing”

Jasmine Stone, a member of Focus E15 said: “Blockading the doors of Vodafone’s flagship store today was incredible and we won’t stop protesting until this government stop the cuts and make corporations pay their fair share”

ENDS

Notes for editors

UK Uncut (www.ukuncut.org) is a grassroots movement taking action to highlight alternatives to the government’s spending cuts.

For more information on Focus E15 see: http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/kate-belgrave/focus-e15-young-mothers-struggle-for-universal-housing

For more information on Disabled People Against Cuts see: www.dpac.uk.net

[1] 341-349 Oxford St, London W1C 2JE

[2] Actions are planned in Bristol, Cornwall, Grimsby, London, Manchester, Newbury, Norwich, Peterborough, Glasgow and St Albans. See http://www.ukuncut.org/actions

[3] For information about the social housing waiting list see: http://www.ukuncut.org/blog/guest-blog-from-tuc and http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2008/aug/08/economy.housing

[4] UK Uncut first accused Vodafone of avoiding a £6bn tax bill relating to the purchase of German engineering firm Mannesmann in October 2010. At the time, the claim was dismissed by the company and HMRC as an ‘urban myth’. In 2011, however, a parliamentary committee 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.ht…
http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/dec/06/hmrc-tax-deal-vodafone

[5] – http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1355daf4-db7f-11e3-b112-00144feabdc0.html
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/vodafone-courts-new-tax-row-with-transfer-to-luxembo…