Guest post: The Breakfast Club Bail-In


This is a guest post by Sara A, who attended a bail-in of Barclays Tottenham Court Road last Saturday.

Last Saturday my four-year-old son and I were among a group of Camden
parents and children who occupied a branch of Barclays Bank as part of a
‘big bail-in’ day of action held by UK Uncut — the anti-cuts campaigning
group. We held a ‘breakfast club’ in the Tottenham Court road branch of
the bank to highlight the massive cuts to Camden’s childcare services. The
cuts will result in the closure of all school breakfast clubs together
with after school clubs, play centres and holiday schemes. Nursery
provision will also be reduced from the current 25 hours a week to only
15.

So what is the connection between childcare cuts in Camden, and Barclays
Bank, and what would motivate responsible parents to take their children
on a direct action, albeit a playful one? It is estimated that the UK
loses over £25 billion a year in tax avoidance — if even a quarter of
this could be clawed back, we would be able to avoid the huge cuts to
services which will amount to £18 billion over the next four years. The £6
million cuts to Camden’s childcare budget are a direct result of a 26% reduction in central government funding for local council services.

Over the past few months, UK Uncut has been targeting large companies who
either avoid paying UK tax at all, or like Barclay’s have avoided paying
full corporation tax. The protests began as occupations of high street
branches of Top Shop and Vodafone, and have now moved onto the banks that
have profited from the tax-payer funded bail-out yet continue to pay
bankers massive bonuses.

Last week it came to light that despite announcing profits of over £11
billion for the last financial year, Barclays has only paid £113 million
in corporation tax: 1% of their profits, rather than the 28% they are
supposed to pay. Anger grew as we learnt that Barclays CEO, Bob Diamond,
will be awarded an £8 million bonus – enough to cover the childcare costs
of two boroughs the size of Camden, or for more than 8,000 children. UK
Uncut called for those who were affected by government cuts to set up
‘alternative’ services in their local branch of Barclays. On Saturday
nearly 50 branches were occupied by people who set up libraries,
playgroups, a bus and even a comedy club. Next weekend it will be the turn
of RBS.

Despite the fun had by the children who attended on Saturday, who played
games, read books, and ate breakfast, we cannot underestimate the
seriousness of the loss of these services. For working parents, universal
affordable children’s services are a lifeline. They enable low and
middle-income families to stay in work, and give children access to
high-quality childcare and outdoor space to play. They also play a vital
role in creating social cohesion. Without them we will see an increase in
families on welfare as it becomes impossible for many to either combine a
working day with taking and collecting children from school, or to afford
private childcare. We also risk a rise in youth crime as older children
lose contact with trusted and dedicated youth workers: they’ll have
nowhere to play but the streets. Parents will also lose out on the sense
of community we feel as part of a network of families, nurseries and play
centres.

For me and my son, over the last two years, the reduction in nursery
provision would have meant that he would have lost out on attending the
wonderful Coram’s Fields nursery, the friends both he and I made, and the
vital social skills he learnt which prepared him for school. I would have
been unable to work full-time, resulting in the loss of vital family
income.

Camden does intend to provide some subsidised childcare, but only to the
most ‘vulnerable’ and to disabled children, and this will be contracted
out to voluntary organisations. Additionally, to lose universality risks socially isolating and ghettoising these children. This is counter-productive and directly
opposes all expert advice.

UK Uncut is holding a ‘feminist big bail-in’ in Camden this Saturday to highlight the disproportionate impact of government cuts on women and childcare.