Posts Tagged ‘UK Uncut’

Visiting Starbucks

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021

I’ve been a coffee drinker most of my life, and there was a time long ago in my late teens when breakfast meant a large mug of black coffee, a cigarette and Miles Davis. And though I gave up smoking when I reached majority (which was 21 back then) I still have the black coffee though now with rather more carbohydrate in muesli and a slice of homemade brown bread. And since my wife and I have rather different musical tastes we listen to the news.

The coffee I drink now is a Fair Trade blend from Traidcraft – they have a range of ground coffees and most are good, though your taste may vary. With a small metal filter that sits on top of a mug its almost as quick as using instant coffee, though I usually have a cup of that (also fairly traded) when I finish writing these posts in the morning.

Journalist Polly Toynbee (right) was among the protesters

Back in the last century when I was making long walks around London, often in the suburbs, on the winter days I preferred I always took with me a Thermos of strong black coffee. Back then coffee shops were rare, and if you could find it, coffee bought on the streets unreliable. My top priority back then in choosing a camera bag was whether I could fit the flask in.

But since then I have occasionally bought a coffee (though it pains me to pay £3 for something I could make better at home for 30p), but have avoided Starbucks – because they don’t pay their taxes. Of course the are not unique in this, but they are one of the best known of tax avoiders, and had then paid no tax in the UK since 2009. So when I joined the longish queue inside the Conduit Street Starbucks on Saturday 8th December it was I think my first time, and I was rather hoping that the protest would begin before I reached the counter.

“As noon approached, there were more protesters and photographers standing around inside the store, as well as some seated drinking coffee. Around a minute after noon, one of the protesters got up and started the protest, reading out a lengthy document about Starbucks’ failure to pay tax, and how the amounts that companies including them were avoiding paying were around five times the total of the cuts in services so far made by the coalition government. She announced that they were setting up a crèche inside this branch to compensate for all those and other family services that the government had closed.”

“The protest continued with more speeches and some chanting of slogans calling on Starbucks to pay up. After around 10 minutes a police officer came into the branch and wrongly accused the protesters of behaving in an intimidatory manner towards the staff and customers, which they clearly had not. Nor had they been asked to leave by the store manager. But they were told this was a disorderly protest despite this, and threatened with arrest if they stayed, although at no point did he make clear under what law they might be arrested.”

“The protesters allege that Starbucks uses a whole number of tricks to avoid paying tax. One is to use a Starbucks company in a tax haven to lend them the money to fund their UK operations at a rate 4% above the LIBOR rate – the excessive interest costs the UK business but makes fat profits for them in the tax haven. Another is to buy their coffee beans at high prices from a subsidiary in Switzerland, which pays only 5% tax on them rather than the 24% they would pay in corporation tax in the UK. They also pay 6% of their total sales as a ‘royalty’ to their Dutch company – and they have a secret low rate tax deal with the government in the Netherlands.”

“Several of the speakers talked about the real hardships being faced particularly by women and the disabled in the UK because of the cuts in services. The losses in tax through tricks like those they say are used by Starbucks – Corporate Tax Avoidance – costs the UK £70 billion, which they compare to the benefit cuts of £15 billion.”

I left with the protesters after the police threats, when they continued to protest with a large and noisy crowd who had been unable to get inside, and walked the short distance to Vigo Street, where another protest was taking place inside and outside the Starbucks branch there, and I took more pictures through the large windows and on the street outside.

Later I went to another Starbucks protest at the Euston Road branch, a part of the UK Uncut Day of Action against Starbucks arranged by the Labour Representation Committee (LRC). I found a small group of UK Uncut supporters at the meeting point but there was no sign of the LRC, and after 15 minutes the action began without them as a dozen or so people walked into the branch, took out a poster and began the action. By the time the LRC arrived the doors were locked and they protested outside. A couple of police officers then got out of their van on the opposite side of the road and walked across and were admitted into the coffee shop. There were a few minutes of polite and friendly conversation and the protesters then walked out to join those protesting outside.

The protesters point out that Costa Coffee who have a lower annual turnover than Starbucks in the UK were paying each year “several times per year what Starbucks are offering to cover several years of dubiously legal tax avoidance. Starbucks have avoided paying perhaps ten times what they are now offering.”

Now its time for a coffee.

More on My London Diary:

Starbucks Euston Road – LRC
UK Uncut Visits Starbucks


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Dec 4th 2010 in London

Saturday, December 4th, 2021

UK Uncut protest Topshop Tax Dodge

UK Uncut protested outside and briefly inside Topshop and other Oxford Street stores in Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, one of the major companies who together are alleged to dodge £12 billion per year in UK tax.

Eleven years on we still haven’t seen effective action by our government against the huge amount of tax evaded and avoided by the wealthy in the UK. Hardly surprising since many of those in government and their friends and supporters benefit greatly from these practices.

It was the threat by the EU to clamp down on some of these legal fiddles that was a major factor behind the huge funding and lies of the Brexit campaign, something that we are now paying the price for while the billionaires are doing very nicely thank you – and some profiteering hugely from the government’s Covid contracts for their mates.

It was the threats that a centre left government under Jeremy Corbyn might have made some slight changes that, along with his support for Palestinian rights, led to a hugely vitriolic campaign against him by the press and inside the Labour Party.

UK Uncut labelled Sir Philip Green, the boss of the Arcadia Group, which included include Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge Wallis and British Home Stores, as “Britain’s most notorious tax-avoider. While Green himself paid tax on his salary, the companies are owned by a holding company in the tax haven of Jersey, which is owned by his wife and immediate family who live in Monaco, and pay no tax. Arcadia are certainly not the only huge scale tax avoiders – and later the protesters also briefly visited Oxford St branches of two others, Boots and Vodafone.

They also point out that when Green awarded himself a huge dividend payout – £1.2 billion – in 2005, it went through various offshore accounts and tax dodges to his wife’s Monaco bank account. The loss in tax to the UK was £285 million.

We should have a tax system based on a simple principle. If people or companies make the money in the UK then you should pay tax on it in the UK, and any of the dodges now still used to avoid this should be illegal. At the moment the large accountancy firms are mainly used to aid the avoidance of tax, and they need to be completely re-purposed to with the role of ensuring the correct tax is paid.

Of course it won’t happen. It would destroy a huge part of the business of the City of London, currently the world capital of financial skullduggery and with a curiously intimate connection to our parliament. All we have seen over the 11 years since this protest are a few sweetheart deals with the tax office with some rather token repayments and things are unlikely to change.

More at March for Zero Carbon UK 2030.


March for Zero Carbon Britain 2030

Happening the same day was a march to Parliament by the Campaign Against Climate Change calling for urgent action over climate change including a Zero Carbon Britain by 2030. The march and rally was the seventh annual climate march organised by the CACC, which has spearheaded the campaign to get effective action to meet the climate challenge since its formation, aiming to put climate change at the top of our political agenda as the greatest threat that humanity faces.

While our government still seems shackled to business as usual and only making rather half-heated committments to tackling climate change with the necessary urgency, most of the rest of us are now convinced of the need for real action. From being regarded by many as cranks, CACC are now a small part of a huge mainstream.

Back in 2010 they were joined on the march largely by other relatively small campaigning groups, including Friends of the Eath, Greenpeace, the World Development Movement, the Climate Rush, the Green Party and many local groups, trade union branches etc. But as with most protests in Britain it was largely ignored by the media, dominated by a press owned by a handful of billionaires.

Things outside government were beginning to move back in 2010, particularly with the publication of an in-depth report compiled for the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), ‘Zero Carbon Britain 2030: A new energy strategy earlier in the year, but since then we have seen another largely wasted eleven years.

More at March for Zero Carbon UK 2030.


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Fuel Poverty, NHS Staffing & Zero Hours – 2013

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Eight years ago there were protests about fuel poverty and NHS staffing which seem still very much in the news today, and zero hours contracts remain a problem, though unscrupulous employers have found another unfair way to screw their workers with ‘fire and rehire’, although legal actions brought by smaller and more active unions have begun to curb some of the more obviously illegal aspects of the gig economy.

Justice Not Jumpers at NPower HQ

But fuel costs are rising fast and putting many energy companies out of business. Not that they were really energy companies, simply middlemen gambling to make a quick profit, buying energy as cheaply as they could and attracting customers to deals which have become uneconomic to honour as fuel prices have risen. The scheme to rescue their customers, passing them on to those companies still in business makes life tougher for those who have to pick them up, and with the latest company to go under – or at least into administration – means that either taxpayers or possibly electricity customers – we await the details – will have to shoulder the bill.

It’s a crisis that has its roots in the privatisation of the industry and the absurd belief in competition that has created an overpopulated market in companies taking a cut out of our bills, with others profiting from persuading people to switch suppliers. Along of course with a government failure to provide proper support for insulation of homes – as Insulate Britain have been gluing themselves to the M25 and elsewhere to highlight, as well as ending the building of onshore wind farms, failing to put investment into other renewable sources such as tidal power and instead backing climate-destroying wood burning and expensive nuclear schemes. The recent half-hearted support for heat pumps is yet another failure by government. We should have schemes that ensures that new build properties are built with either air or ground source heat pumps and high levels of insulation and provides incentives for them to have solar panels.

On Tuesday 26th November I went with fuel poverty activists to march to the offices of NPower, one of the big six energy providers to protest against the profiteering by them that leads to people having to choose between eating and keeping warm, causing unnecessary deaths.

They included people from Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association and Disabled People Against Cuts and were protesting against the huge increase in energy costs and against the deception of the energy companies who blame price rises on ‘green taxes’. The protests, in London and at British Gas’s new Oxford HQ, as well as in Lewes and Bristol were supported by other groups including No Dash for Gas, Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Revolution, Young Friends of the Earth, Frack Off London, Power for the People, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Lewes Against the Cuts, SOAS Energy & Climate Change Society and Southwest Against Nuclear.

They went to the NPower offices in Threadneedle Street in the centre of the City of London because NPower is the UK’s most complained about energy company with double the customer complaints of its nearest rival EDF and higher price rises in 2013 than any of the other Big Six companies. It had then paid zero corporation tax for the past 3 years despite a 34% profit rise of £413million and in the previous winter its price hikes were estimated to have pushed 300,000 people into fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty leads to premature deaths – and the figure for these announced that day for winter 2012-3 was a shock, with an increase of almost a third on the previous year, to 31,000 people. The protesters emphasized this by carrying a coffin to the offices, with several of the wearing masks with the faces of the prime minister and chancellor, David Cameron and George Osborne, and wearing jumpers with the logos of major energy companies.

Police protected the offices of NPower while the protesters held a peaceful rally outside, where many testimonies were read from people who were having to chose between heating and eating, already cold and dreading the coming winter. In a press statement, Susan Jarrett of UK Uncut said: ‘The fact that people are dying of fuel poverty as Npower and other energy companies rake in the money and avoid tax is a scandal. This Government is not only unnecessarily cutting our services in the name of austerity but are allowing these energy companies to literally get away with murder which is why we are fighting back today.’

This winter fuel costs are higher. Global warming means our weather is far less predictable, and its possible we may have an unusually cold snap. Or we may be lucky and avoid extremes of cold. But if we do get them, then there will be more deaths.

4:1 legal minimum NHS staffing

Back in 2013, the Dept of Health was still in Richmond House on Whitehall, and nurses were there to campaign for a manadatory staffing level of one nurse for every 4 patients in the NHS. They were joined by other groups protesting against closures and privatisation in the NHS. Its probably because of protests like this and many others that the department moved to obscure offices some way down Victoria St – which at least one protest I photographed marched past without noticing and got several hundred yards down the road before they realised they had missed it. Richmond House is now set to hold Parliament while the old building undergoes extensive and very expensive modernisation.

The protest was a response to various disastrous news stories about the problems of the NHS, including the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) revealing the NHS has over 20,000 nursing vacancies and the Department of Health’s decision to downgrade (effectively close) 100 A&E departments. Protesters also urged people to sign a petition calling for the NHS to be exempted from the provisions of the EU-US trade treaty then being negotiated in secret; and post-Breixt the government has made clear they will not protect the NHS in UK-US negotiations.

Cultural Workers against Zero Hours

Finally I went to photograph PCS members from national cultural institutions in London at Tate Modern and on the Millennium Bridge protesting against zero hour contracts which give them no guaranteed weekly hours or income, while stopping them taking on other work. Employers use zero-hour contracts to cut wages, avoid holiday pay, pensions, and ensure the maximum flexibility and profit for themselves. Workers are also unable to take on other part-time work, as they are obliged to be available for work at the whim of the employer.

There have been some minor changes in the law and in 2015 employers were banned from requiring workers to get permission before accepting other work but zero hours contracts continue to be a problem for many workers. Workers on them have no way of knowing their income week to week and although in theory they have the right to refuse any work offered, this still often leads to them being offered fewer hours in future. And while in theory zero hours workers have employment rights, these are often denied – and virtually impossible for individuals to enforce. All workers – particularly those suffering from zero hours contracts – need to join an effective union.


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Pay Rise, Occupy, Blessed Sacrament & Poor Doors

Monday, October 18th, 2021

Saturday 18th October 2014 was another long and busy day for me. After briefly looking in at Parliament Square, where a few from Occupy Democracy had defied police to spend the night on the pavement I went to the Embankment where thousands were massing for the TUC ‘Britain Needs a Pay Rise‘ march which was due to begin in a couple of hours time.

I returned to the TUC march a little later for the Press Call, seldom very interesting events to photograph, and then the start of the march where Frances O’Grady was doing her best for the camera.

Things got a little more interesting as the march filed part me, and towards the end of the 80,000 or so I met rather more people I knew, including those with CND, Focus E15, Occupy London, Class War and other radical groups.

An hour and a quarter after the start the people at the back were getting close to the start of the march, and I went back for another look at things in Parliament Square. Not a lot was happening, apart from some illicit sleeping (its a crime there.)

I went on to Westminster Cathedral, arriving in time to meet the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament leaving to walk to St Georges Cathedral in Southwark, and walking with them across Lambeth Bridge, from where I walked back towards Parliament Square.

I arrived back as more people who had been on the TUC march were arriving, including a group from UK Uncut dancing to a music centre on a shopping trolley. Police and a warden from Westminster Council – who are responsible for the pavement opposite the Houses of Parliament came and tried to seize the music centre, but after much argument allowed the to keep it so long as they left the square.

Shortly afterwards others arrived, with a group of anarchists running across the grass with black flags, chased by ‘heritage wardens’, then others poured onto the grass with the two towers with the messages ‘Power’ and ‘Democracy’ they had carried on the TUC march. A rally then took place, gathered around these to protect them, with John McDonnell MP as the first speaker, while police lined the edge of the square watching. Then small groups of police began to gather, ready to charge, and police reinforcements arrived; it seemed only a matter of minutes before they tried to clear the area.

But after Russell Brand arrived to speak, the police rapidly melted away and the many vans drove off. I suspect they knew that had they attacked when he was present there would have been massive media coverage and decided it was better to come back at dead of night after most of the press and TV have left – as they did.

I left to go to Aldgate, where Class War were holding a Poor Doors Saturday Night Special against the separate doors for rich and poor residents at One Commercial St, Aldgate, with a larger than usual group who had come from the nearby Anarchist Book Fair. It was a livelier protest than usual with samba from Rhythms of Revolution and some songs from Cosmo up from Wales for the event, as well as a rather larger than usual police presence.

Inevitably at the end of the protest the group decided to move onto the busy Whitechapel High Street and block it, ignoring orders by the police to leave the highway. It’s a fairly dark area of street and my flash unit was having problems, but I managed to make a few pictures, some by the headlights of the blocked cars. After around ten minutes the protesters decided it was time to leave the road and end the protest, and I went home.

More at:

Poor Doors Saturday Night Special
Procession of the Blessed Sacrament
Britain Needs A Pay Rise
Democracy Camp takes the Square


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Legal Aid & Illegal Confinement

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

Eight years ago on Saturday October 5th 2013 I turned up outside the Old Bailey to cover a protest against the governments proposals to demolish a vital part of our justice system, Legal Aid. The proposals will mean that justice becomes largely only available to the very rich, with one law for the rich and another for the poor.

Of course our system of law in the UK is one which has as its base the protection of the wealthy and the establishment and in particular the rights of property owners, dating back to the ideas of private ownership of land introudced and used for its appropropriation by our Norman conquerers, but legal aid has provided a small and important gesture towards equality. The rich and powerful can still use the law to protect their interests, with injunctions and threats of libel and other actions. They can still call upon the police to protect their property and rely on our secret services to work for their interests.

Lee Jasper

The protest came after the government had been consulting on the changes to the legal aid system which proposed making it more restrictive and also cutting the fees to solicitors and barristers. Our combative in nature system of law is complex, time-consuming and allows those who can pay large fees to prolong litigation and have a better chance of success, with costs in some cases being in £millions. It’s a system that favours not the establishment of truth, but those who can employ the most persuasive liars.

From the Old Bailey the march made its way to the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, where I rushed ahead to find DPAC (Disabled Activists Agains Cuts) already making their way onto the pedestrian crossing to block the road. “They stopped on it and began to padlock together to form a block. The far half of the crossing was blocked by a line of figures dressed in gold, one holding the (plastic) Sword of Justice, and another her Scales.”

Police came and asked them politely to move but they didn’t respond. The marchers arrived for a noisy protest and then a mock trial of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. A number of witnesses were called, some giving testimony of how without Legal Aid they would have been unable to fight their cases, and others reading written testimony from others, and then there was more chanting and drumming as well as poetry and some legal advice before the inevitable guilty verdict.

Police had been getting more impatient and insistent about the protesters leaving the road. They don’t like to arrest people in wheelchairs, partly because it looks bad in the photographs and videos, partly because of the difficulty of providing suitable transport, but also because like the rest of us (except possibly Tory ministers) they have a human sympathy with the disabled. “The DPAC activists in wheelchairs who were still blocking the road consulted with each other and decided it was time to leave, and that they would have a final five minutes of protest and then all leave together.”

I left for Parliament Square where a peaceful vigil was marking a year since British poet Talha Ahsan was extradited to the US. Those taking part, including his brother Hamsa and other family members said that his long-term solitary confinement comes under the UN definition of torture and call for him to be returned home and unjust US-UK extradition laws repealed.

As I wrote:
“Talha Ahsan, an award-winning British Muslim poet and translator has been detained for over seven years without trial and was extradited to the USA on 5th October 2012 with his co-defendant Babar Ahmad. Although he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, the Home Secretary Theresa May refused to prevent his extradition, unlike that of Gary McKinnon, raising suspicions that this relected an anti-Muslim predjudice.”

Talha is a UK citizen and his supporters say that he should have been tried in the UK. Eventually in the US he accepted a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to one of the several charges and was sentenced. The time he had already served meant he was then free and was returned to the UK. His six years before extradition in detention without trial or charge here remains among the longest in British legal history.

More at:

Bring Talha Ahsan Home
UK Uncut Road Block for Legal Aid

Six years ago: 30 May 2015

Sunday, May 30th, 2021

May 30th, 2015 was one of those days where I travelled around London stopping off for various reasons en-route. As always on such occasions I give thanks to the GLC for their efforts which resulted in the London-wide travel card before they were sadly eliminated by Mrs Thatcher, leaving the city largely rudderless for a crucial 15 years when it fell behind other cities in the world – except of course for the financial City of London which further cemented its reputation as the corruption capital of the world.

London is very much a world city, and my first event, outside the Daily Mail offices in Kensington reflected this, with protest by Filipino health workers over their coverage of the case of Victorino Chua, a nurse found guilty of murdering two patients and injuring others. The newspaper used the case to insult Filipino NHS workers who have for years formed a vital part of the NHS. When I came round in intensive care in 2003 it was to see a Filipino nurse who greatly impressed me with his care and attentiveness over the next few days.

It had taken around an hour for me to get to Kensington, and the journey across London to Peckham Rye was around another 50 minutes. I was there not for a protest but for the proposed Peckham Coal Line, an elevated linear urban park whose proponents compared in extremely misleading publicity to New York’s ‘High Line’ walk. And while the public were invited to walk the Coal Line, we were largely unable to do so as it is still an active part of the railway network – and one I took a train along after following around its length and back on existing local roads and paths.

Despite that it was an interesting walk, including a visit to the roof of the multi-storey car park and the Derek Jarman memorial garden. Part of the proposed walk is already open to the public as a small nature reserve, cleared beside the railway line for a massive inner-ring road – part of the proposed London Ringways motorway scheme which was fortunately abandoned after the terrible impact of building its earliest sections including the A40(M) Westway in Notting Hill became clear.

A train from Peckham Rye station took me along the route of the Coal Line to Queen’s Road Peckham and then on to London Bridge, and the Underground to Waterloo where I met with UK Uncut who were to go to an undisclosed location for some direct action. This turned out to be Westminster Bridge, where the protesters blocked the road.

The then unrolled a large yellow banner and began to fill in the slogan that had been marked out on it with black paint. After some parading around on the bridge with it, they then lowered it over the upstream side of the bridge and lit a couple of smoke flares. I’d run down across the bridge and a little along the embankment in front of St Thomas’s Hospital to take pictures of the banner drop.

The banner drop was really on the wrong side of the bridge for photographs and it seemed something of an anti-climax. It was hard to read the banner and its message ‘£12 bn more cuts £120 bn tax dodged – Austerity is a lie’ ” was perhaps a little understated. I think may of those present had expected something rather more direct, both in message and action. I went on with many of them to join another protest in Parliament Square which was just coming to an end, against government plans to get rid of the Human Rights Act.

It was then a short walk to Trafalgar Square, where on the anniversary of the 1967 declaration of Biafran independence, Biafrans were calling on the UK government for support in getting back the country which they claim was taken away from them by the Berlin Conference in 1884 and incorporated into Southern Nigeria. They say Biafra was successor of the Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people, which lasted from the 10th century to 1911 and was one of Africa’s great civilisations before the European colonisation. As well as backing the call for independence the protest also remembered those who died in the Nigerian-Biafran War.

In the main body of the square, striking National Gallery staff and supporters were holding a rally after PCS rep Candy Udwin was sacked for her trade union activities against the plans to privatise gallery staff.

At the end of the rally, people moved towards the Sainsbury Wing, where security is already run by a private company and exhibitions guarded by outsourced staff. Police blocked the doors to stop them entering, and they sat down to hold a further rally blocking the gallery.

Mass rally Supports National Gallery strikers
Biafrans demand independence
UK Uncut Art Protest
Walking the Coal Line
Filipino Nurses tell Daily Mail apologise

UK Uncut Party against Freud

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Protesters meet at Kings Cross Station

Not Sigmund, but his great-grandson, a millionaire merchant banker responsible for government welfare reforms. The ideas behind many of the changes in the benefits systems which are having such disastrous effects on the lives of many and particularly those with disabilities, impoverishing many, driving some to suicide and driving the enormous growth in the need for food banks come largely from the work of one man, David Freud, now Lord Freud. A modern-day Scrooge promoting Victorian ideas, the man who launched a thousand foodbanks. Rather more, over 2000 by 2021.

They came with a notice of eviction for Lord Freud

Freud went into journalism after his PPE degree at Oxford, working for 8 years at the Financial Times before becoming a merchant banker. It was Tony Blair who, impressed by his work raising finance for Eurotunnel and EuroDisney brought him into politics in 2006, asking him to produced a report on the UK’s welfare-to-work system. His 2007 report called for the involvement of private companies paid by results to get people, particularly single parents and those suffering from long-term illness and disabilities back into work and for a single benefit to replace the various benefits for working age people, combining Housing Benefit, Job Seekers allowance etc.

UK Uncut had brought a removal van and cardboard boxes, but…

His ideas were taken up enthusiastically by New Labour and incorporated into a White Paper in 2008, by which time Freud was an adviser to Gordon Brown’s government, but in 2009 he became a member of the Conservative Party, who made him a Lord and a shadow minister under David Cameron, becoming in the 2010 Coalition government Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Welfare Reform at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Police prevented the protesters reaching the house

There he began a programme against people on incapacity benefits, lone parents and the self-employed whose earnings were low, who he said were enjoying a lifestyle of living off benefits. After the 2015 election he was promoted to Minister of State at the DWP and given the job of expanding the Universal Credit scheme, retiring at the end of 2016.

Listening to songs and speeches on the road outside the house

On Saturday 13th April 2013 I went with UK Uncut supporters who travelled from Kings Cross to hold a lively but peaceful protest in the road outside Lord Freud’s home in Darmouth Park, Highgate against the bedroom tax, another of his ideas to disadvantage the poor. At the same time protesters from DPAC (Disabled Persons Against Cuts) visited the home of Ian Duncan Smith and delivered an eviction notice there.

At the party there was street theatre, games, a quiz and speeches about the bedroom tax and other measures against those on low incomes and benefits that Freud was bringing in. The bedroom tax hits particular groups such as foster carers, disabled people and single parents many of whom will be unable to meet the extra rent and will face eviction, including many now in homes with special adaptions for their disabilities. In social housing there simply are not the smaller properties available that the act is designed to force people to move into.

People are also hard hit – particularly in London where rents are high – by the strict limit of the benefits cap. Other measures, including cuts in legal aid and council tax benefits and the end to disability living allowances will also cause real distress, and those benefits that remain are getting a real terms cut by below-inflation increases. Among those speaking at the event were Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and journalist Owen Jones.

Who wants to evict a Millionaire?


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Starbucks Pay Your Taxes

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

The recent failure of the Arcadia group brought memories of UK Uncut back to mind. Formed in 2010 this “grassroots movement using direct action to fight the cuts and highlight alternatives to austerity” organised a number of peaceful direct actions against tax dodgers in the following couple of years, though more recently it seems to have largely confined itself to posts on Twitter and Facebook – including this on 1st December this year by Rob:

It is not ‘Topshop owner Arcadia group could collapse into administration within days’, it’s ‘billionaire tax exile Sir Philip Green will let company in his wife’s name fail, with massive hole in pension pot and risking thousands of jobs at Christmas time during a pandemic.’

https://www.facebook.com/ukuncut/

I photographed a number of UK Uncut events, and their biggest day of action was 8 years ago today, on Saturday 8 Dec 2012 when there were over 45 protests at Starbucks shops across the UK with women, men and children transforming Starbucks stores into in refuges, crèches and homeless shelters in protest against the impact of the government’s cuts on women and their refusal to clamp down on tax avoidance.

While actions by UK Uncut and others have certainly done much to raise public awareness about the huge amount of tax evasion and tax avoidance by the rich and corporations in the UK it has led to very little action to cut it down. According to HMRC figures for 2018/9, quoted by Full Fact, the the ‘tax gap’ – money that should have been collected as tax but wasn’t – was around £35 billion, of which “£12 billion is attributed to tax evasion, avoidance and organised crime.” Full Fact suggest that tax evasion and avoidance is currently about 15 times greater than benefit fraud.

HMRC claim to have taken many measures to reduce this loss, but it continues to be huge, with far too many loopholes still remaining for the wealthy and companies to legally avoid paying tax on income generated in the UK. Much of the activity of the City of London is devoted to keeping things this way, along with laundering money from criminal enterprises – and the City has its own representative in our parliament – the City Remembrancer – to keep things that way.

Meanwhile, the newspapers and broadcast media plug away at the idea of ‘benefit scroungers’, creating a perception that this is far more widespread than is the case. A 2013 Ipsos Mori survey found that the general public thought that almost a quarter of benefits were fraudulently claimed – over 20 times the actual level. Of course it is still too high, as is the level of those who are underpaid benefits, which is almost as much.

I went with UK Uncut into two Starbucks just off Regent St, going into the Conduit St branch a few minutes before the widely advertised start time for the protest. Staff were denying entry to those they thought would be protesters but I walked in without any problem, and was standing in a long queue to the counter when the protest began. There were speeches and some chanting of slogans inside for around 10 minutes, along with a much larger and noisier group outside who had been refused entry before police arrived and ordered us out, falsely accusing the protesters of behaving in an intimidatory manner towards the staff and customers and threatening them with arrest. We all left quietly to join the large and loud protest outside.

I went down to the nearby Vigo St Starbucks where a similar protest was taking place but was not allowed in and had to take photographs through the windows. Eventually the crowd outside the shop was joined by the others from Conduit St and a rally began.

UK Uncut in Euston Rd Starbucks

I while the rally was continuing to photograph another of the London protests at the Euston Road branch of Starbucks, where the Labour Representation Committee was joining in with the UK Uncut day of action. By the time they arrived, rather later than the advertised time, other UK Uncut supporters had already decided to go inside and sit down, and the doors were locked. Police were rather more friendly here and came and discussed the situation with those sitting down inside, who agreed they would leave when they were requested to do so by the management and then continue the protest outside.

More about the protests at:
Starbucks Euston Road – LRC
UK Uncut Visits Starbucks


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.