Struggles, United Kingdom

Coming to a Barclays near you…

UK Uncut, the group that has garnered well deserved attention for organising effective and civilised demonstrations, has put yet another spin on the anti-cuts movement.

Nicole Black

The latest project by the organisation is a series of “bail-ins,” at high street banks across the UK.

While anyone in the UK has become all too familiar with the idea of a bailout, the idea of a bail-in may seem baffling.

It is a new and completely ingenious form of protest where banks are occupied by campaigners who want to highlight a certain cut.

For example, if the community was particularly concerned about libraries being closed down, they might organise a bail-in where the people would show up to the Barclays with stacks of books, or book carts, and sit around the floor of the bank and act as though they were in a library: reading, talking quietly or studying.

Other ideas have included setting up forests, hospitals, schools, playgrounds and leisure centres inside the banks; anything that is in danger of being cut is a good idea to represent.

Campaigners plan to sing, dance, and even put on plays inside of banks to bring attention to tax avoidance and large bonuses taken by bank officials, money that could be used to save public services.

This movement is a slight derivation from the group’s earlier campaign efforts, which focused mainly on high street stores like Top Shop and, specifically, Phillip Green. In 2005, Green gave himself the biggest paycheck in British corporate history, £1.2bn.

Green was able to avoid paying tax on this huge sum of money by channeling the payout through a network of offshore accounts, and eventually to his wife in Monaco. His wife is listed as the actual owner of the company and, so, by channeling the payment to her, Green was able to avoid UK income tax.

It is estimated that Green saved £285m by handling the money in this fashion. UK Uncut succeeded in temporarily shutting down various high street stores and turns its attention now to the banks, and in particular Barclays, which has, the group claims, returned to paying out “mega-bonuses” to employees, with a total bonus pot of £2.3bn.

The group also points out that the new Barclays boss, Bob Diamond, received a pay packet of £11.5m upon starting the job, which is 100- times the pay of an average Barclays cashier and could pay the salaries of 542 nurses or 380,000 Education Maintenance Allowances. The public cannot ignore these numbers, and it’s not about to let the banks ignore them, either.

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