Posts Tagged ‘public service cuts’

Occupy & Women’s Equality – 2011

Sunday, November 19th, 2023

Occupy & Women’s Equality – On Saturday 19 November 2011 Occupy London was in full swing in St Paul’s Churchyard and elsewhere and the Fawcett Society were protesting against government cuts that were reversing the movement to greater equality for women.

Don’t Turn The Clock Back – Temple to Westminster

Occupy & Women's Equality

The Fawcett Society were angered by government’s cuts which they said were putting the clock back on the advances which women have made towards equality since the 1950s, and had organised a march in protest with a 1950s theme.

Occupy & Women's Equality

Many of the marchers, mainly women, had come dressed in 1950s styles “ranging from the most elegant of Paris fashion of the day to aprons, hairnets and curlers. Others carried brushes or brooms, wooden spoons or other kitchen implements as symbols of what they felt was the only role our government can envisage for women, the ‘good little wife’.”

Occupy & Women's Equality

Many women had been particularly angered by the sexist and patronising putdown in parliament made by then Prime Minister David Cameron, a man who a few days ago made a surprising return to a leading role in UK politics. Probably insulated as he has been from normal life by an education at Eton and Oxford and wealth he thought little about his sexist and patronising put-down ‘Calm Down Dear!’ to Labour’s Angela Eagle in the House of Commons, but it enraged at least half the nation.

Occupy & Women's Equality

On the march people chanted ‘Calm Down Dear!’ followed by the deafening response ‘No We Won’t!‘ The marchers also had some caustic comments directed at the press (though not us journalists covering the march) for their “belittlling labelling of some groups of women in public life – such as ‘Blair’s Babes‘ – as well as the general predominance of semi-pornographic imagery and demeaning attitudes to women.”

But it was the cuts that really were the focus of the march, particularly the cuts in public services. A majority of those who will lose their jobs are women, employed in the NHS and elsewhere. And women depend more on the various services that will be cut, and will also have disproportionally to provide unpaid services such as care to make up for those cut. Finally the cuts in pensions will also have a larger effect on women who were already seeing a raise in their pension age.

The Fawcett Society was founded in 1866 to campaign peacefully for votes for women and remains a powerful campaigning organisation for equal rights. It had called on a wide range of speakers for its rally including journalist Tanya Gold, Estelle Hart, NUS Women’s Officer, comedians Kate Smurthwaite and Josie Lond, Heather Wakefield of Unison, Vivienne Hayes from the Women’s Resource Centre, Chitra Nagarajan of Southall Black sisters. Aisha Mirza from UK Uncut and a spokesperson for the Turkish and Kurdish Refugee Women’s group.

More at Don’t Turn The Clock Back.

At Occupy London

Morning at St Pauls

I’d visited Occupy in St Paul’s Churchyard briefly before going to photograph the Fawcett Society march and returned later in the day to visit the ‘Bank of Ideas’ in Sun Street and Occupy Finsbury Circus before returning to St Pauls to hear a range of speakers on other campaigns both in London and around the world, including news of the Occupy movement from the USA and Bristol, where the occupation seems not to have attracted the opposition shown by the City authorities and sections of the church in London.

A meeting in progress in the Bank of Ideas

The Bank of Ideas was an empty former UBS bank building in Sun Street that was occupied and used for a wide range of meetings and discussions.

Occupy Finsbury Square
People listen to a wide range of speakers on the steps of St Pauls
Jeremy Corbyn
Vivienne Westwood

Later a group who had taken part in the non-Stop Picket of South Africa House started by the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group on 19 April 1986 shared some of their songs and their experience.

They had defied defied the attempts of British police, the British government and the South African embassy to remove them for almost 4 years until Mandela was released in 1990. There had been around a thousand arrests, but 96% of the cases brought to court were dismissed. Before this they had organised a number of shorter non-stop protests outside the embassy, the first of which in 1981 lasted 86 days and resulted in South African political prisoners including David Kitson being moved to better conditions.

The official Anti-Apartheid Movement opposed their actions and expelled them from the movement, warned trade union and local anti-apartheid groups not to have anything to do with them and asked Westminster Council to remove them. It wanted to avoid any confrontation with the British Government and opposed the City of London group’s support for other African liberation movements as well as the African National Congress.

More from the day at Occupy on My London Diary:
City of London Anti-Apartheid Group
Speakers At Occupy London
Bank of Ideas & Finsbury Square
Saturday Morning Occupy London

UK Uncut VAT rise & a Pillow Fight

Sunday, January 15th, 2023

Two protests in London on Saturday 15th January 2011.

UK Uncut Protest VAT Rise at Vodaphone – Oxford St, 15 Jan 2011

UK Uncut VAT rise & a Pillow Fight

A couple of days ago in 2023 the Commons Public Accounts Committee reported that £42bn is outstanding in tax debt, with HMRC failing to collect around 5% of tax owing each year. Committee chair Meg Hiller commented “The eye-watering £42bn now owed to HMRC in unpaid taxes would have filled a lot of this year’s infamous public spending black hole.” The report states that for every £1 the HMRC spends on compliance it recovers £18 in unpaid tax, and the MPs say it simply isn’t trying hard enough.

UK Uncut VAT rise & a Pillow Fight

In addition, they point to the pathetic effort our tax authorities are making to recover the £4.5 billion lost by fraud over Covid support schemes, only even “trying to recover less than a quarter of estimated losses in schemes such as furlough.

UK Uncut VAT rise & a Pillow Fight

Back in 2011, anti-cuts activists UK Uncut were campaigning to force the government to clamp down on tax avoidance rather than cut public services and increase the tax burden on the poor. This protest took place following a rise in VAT from 17.5% to 20% and a couple a weeks before the UK deadline for tax returns by the self-employed of January 31st.

They said then that rich individuals and companies such as Vodafone, Philip Green, HSBC, Grolsch, HMV, Boots, Barclays, KPMG and others employ armies of lawyers and accountants to exploit legal loopholes and dodge around £25 billions in tax while the rest of us on PAYE or ordinary people sending in self-assessment tax forms pay the full amount.

Little has changed since then – except the amounts involved will have increased, but nothing has been done to move to a fairer approach to taxation which would eliminate the legal dodges and loopholes and insist that tax is paid on money earned in the UK rather than being squirrelled away in overseas tax havens. It should be a general principle that any scheme to deliberately avoid tax is illegal.

Many believe the main impetus for the Brexit campaign was the intention announced by Europe to clamp down on tax avoidance, which would have cost the wealthy backers of Vote Leave millions by cutting down their dodgy dealings.

UK Uncut held a rally on the pavement on Oxford Street outside Vodaphone, one of the companies that manage to pay little or no UK tax. Large numbers of shoppers walked by, some stopping briefly to listen and applauding the protest.

Speakers pointed out the regressive nature of VAT, applying to all purchases of goods (except those exempt from VAT) by everyone regardless of their incomes. Income tax should be fairer, as it is related to income and the ability to pay – and it would be fairer if the loopholes allowing tax avoidance were closed.

One speaker made the point that multinational companies not only use tricky accounting to avoid UK tax but also by shifting profits to tax havens they deny desperately needed funds to the poorer countries of the world.

Others spoke about the effects of the government cuts on education, with rising university fees and the removal of the maintenance allowance that had enabled many poorer students to remain in sixth-forms. At one point people held up books as a reminder of the cuts in library services being forced on local authorities by the government.

A member of the PCS spoke of his concern that the government was actually cutting down on the staff who combat tax evasion as well as relaxing the rules on tax avoidance rather than trying to collect more from the rich.

Prime Minister David Cameron had called for a ‘Big Society’ with charities and community organisations playing a larger role – presumably to replace the public services which were disappearing under his austerity programme. But many of these organisations were also under pressure as hard-pressed local authorities were having to slash funding grants.

More at UK Uncut Protest VAT Rise at Vodaphone.

Pillow Fight Against Solum at Walthamstow, 15 Jan 2011

Ealier I had photographed Walthamstow residents staging a pillow fight in protest against plans for inappropriate high rise development on Walthamstow Central Station car park which were tocome to the council planning committee meeting the following Thursday.

Solum Regeneration had plans to build a 14 storey hotel and 8 storey blocks of flats there, towering over the surrounding area of largely late-Victorian low rise development.

The scheme had been condemned the previous year by CABE, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment set up in 1999 to provide impartial advice to the government “on architecture, urban design and public space“, and the developers had made minor changes which made it even less acceptable to the local objectors.

Solum Regeneration was set up by Network Rail and Kier Property to redevelop land around railway stations, including Walthamstow Central. One of their other plans was for a huge redevelopment at Twickenham station, now completed after some years of considerable inconvenience to station users. Richmond Council had initially turned down this scheme.

Despite the pillow fight and the other activities of local campaigners, the Walthamstow scheme also got the go-ahead, with building work beginning in 2012. Other high rise schemes have also been approved in the surrounding area, the character of which has changed considerably.

Pillow Fight Against Solum Walthamstow

Olympic Area & Budget Cuts – 2012

Monday, December 5th, 2022

December 5th 2012 was a fine winter’s day and I took advantage of the weather to try and walk around the area which had been fenced off for the London Olympics for around 5 years. In the evening I joined a protest in Westminster against the continuing cuts being aimed at the poorest and most vulnerable by George Osborne and the Conservative-led government.

Olympic Area Slightly Open – Stratford Marsh. Wed 5 Dec 2012

It was around April 2007 that an 11 mile long blue fence went up around the whole of the London Olympic site at Stratford, barring access to the whole site except for those working on it. Parts were replaced in 2012 with a 5,000 volt 4m tall electrified perimeter fence in 2012 for the games itself.

St Thomas’ Creek still blocked to boats

Even the public footpath along the Northern Sewage Outfall, the Greenway, had been closed in May 2012, but after I heard this had reopened on December 1st I had been wanting to visit the area again to walk along it.

Crossrail works

The View Tube, a cafe and viewing area set up on the Greenway had also reopened, under new management, and it was only signs for this that kept me going past a maze of fencing and hostile signage. The Greenway was still closed between Stratford High Street and the main railway lines because of ongoing work for Crossrail, and roads north of the railway were still fenced off.

Wire fences and yellow fences have replaced the blue

Despite it being a fine afternoon for a walk I was the only customer to enter the View Tube while I was there and the Greenway, normally a useful through route for cyclists and pedestrians, was still deserted.

I could see no signs of work going on to bring the area back into use. Ten years later the area is still largely a desert and most of the promises about the ‘Olympic Legacy’ have been reneged on. This is still an Olympic waste; though the developers have done well out of it, the people haven’t.

I walked along the Greenway, finding there was no access from it to any part of the area, with those electric wire fences still in place, and made my way along the Lea Navigation to Hackney Wick, making a number of pictures on my way.

Many more pictures including panoramas at Olympic Area Slightly Open

Osborne’s Budget Cuts – Strand to Westminster, Wed 5 Dec 2012

I around 200 people outside Kings College at Aldwych who were meeting to march to join the rally at Downing St where Stop the War and CND were protesting against Osborne’s attacks on the vulnerable, continued in his autumn statement.

The march had been called by the UCU London Region, and was joined by students, trade unionists, socialists and others, and went down the Strand and into Whitehall shouting slogans against public service cuts, the rich, David Cameron and George Osborne in particular to join a similar number already protesting at Downing St.

Speakers at the rally pointed out the huge cost of military expenditure which was being poured into futile projects – and the pockets of the arms manufacturers:

The Afghanistan war — which everyone knows is futile and lost — is costing around £6 billion a year. The yearly maintenance costs for Trident are £2.2 billion a year. The cost of renewing the Trident system — which this government is committed to do — would cost up to £130 billion. Two aircraft carriers are being built at a cost of £7 billion. Then there’s the £15 billion to be spent buying 150 F-35 jets from the US, each of which will cost £85 million plus an extra £16 million for the engine.”

John McDonnell MP

By now it was freezing, and when the speeches began the speakers were asked to cut their contributions short because of the extreme cold. Among those who spoke were John McDonnell MP, Kate Hudson of CND, author Owen Jones, Andy Greene of DPAC and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.

Kate Hudson CND

We heard from a nurse about the campaign to keep Lewisham hospital open, where a few days earlier 15,000 had marched and formed a human chain around the hospital. The hospital is successful and well run, but huge PFI debts from another hospital in the area threaten its future.

Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett

A NUT member talked about the problems the cuts were making in education and campaigners had come from Connaught School in Waltham Forest where they are striking against the decision by school governors to pursue academy status despite the opposition of the teachers, parents, the local MP and councillors.

A speaker from UK Uncut urged people to join the protests against Starbucks the following Saturday and many of those who spoke called for trade unions to take action against the cuts, calling on union leaders to stop simply speaking against them and start organising strike action.

More at Osborne’s Budget Cuts.