– Nationwide occupations planned in protest at government welfare cuts
This Saturday 20 July, HSBC branches across the country will be transformed into food banks in protest at the impact of the government’s welfare spending cuts on food poverty by UK Uncut, the anti-cuts direct action network.
Actions are already planned for 12 towns and cities across the UK including London, Glasgow, Manchester, Oxford and Shrewsbury.  Activists have billed the day as a day of ‘creative civil disobedience’, occupying and shutting down bank branches, distributing food to the public and collecting food for distribution to local food banks.
Campaigners have highlighted research which has shown that 500,000 people now rely on food banks on a regular basis.  The number of people relying on food banks has risen by 170% in the last year alone. Nearly half of those relying on food banks did so because of cuts or delays in benefit payments, while one in five turned to food banks due to low pay. 
HSBC, the UK’s largest bank, has been targeted primarily for its links to tax havens and its role in facilitating tax avoidance. Recent research has shown that HSBC uses tax havens more than any other UK bank, with 496 subsidiaries in tax havens.  Only two other companies on the FTSE 100 have more links to tax havens. The bank has also been rocked by major tax avoidance scandals, with a Swiss subsidiary alleged to have helped UK tax payers evade £200 million as well as running thousands of offshore accounts in the tax haven of Jersey. 
After UK Uncut’s plans were announced the bank offered to meet to discuss activists’ concerns.  However despite repeated offers from UK Uncut the bank has so far rejected offers to hold a public discussion on 20 July.
Naomi Rogers, a spokesperson for UK Uncut said “Half a million people now rely on food banks and it’s the government’s decision to slash benefits that’s forcing that number up. The benefit cap, bedroom tax, the scrapping of crisis loans and attacks on disability living allowance and job seekers allowance are driving people into shocking levels of poverty.”
Sam McCarthy, an activist from Manchester said “We’re targeting HSBC because a cabinet of millionaires are making a political choice to cut meagre benefits rather than collect billions of pounds avoided through tax havens. HSBC uses tax havens more than any other UK bank, allowing it and its rich clients to avoid paying their fair share of tax – leaving the rest of us picking up the bill.”
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NOTES TO EDITORS
1 – Actions are planned to take place in Bristol, Brixton, Exeter, Glasgow, Grimsby, Manchester, Northampton, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield and Shrewsbury. For further details and locations see http://www.ukuncut.org/actions?n=&m=1&d=20+Jul+2013