Bank taxes and bonuses at heart of public ire
Protesters in the UK have focused on bank bonuses as well as taxes.
UK Uncut, a group that uses humour to demand companies pay more tax, said it was seeking to shut shops and occupy branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays.
It planned to turn an Alliance Boots pharmacy into a hospital and a Barclays into a church “bail-in” service.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic US Uncut planned events in 40 cities targeting the Bank of America.
UK Uncut’s focus on London’s Oxford Street coincided with a demonstration organised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in which it estimated 100 000 people would march to a rally in Hyde Park.
The TUC and UK Uncut said the cuts would not be so painful if companies and bankers paid their fair share of tax. Those attending the London demonstrations were reported by Metropolitan Police to number as many as 250 000.
“We don’t want to pay for the banking crisis,” UK Uncut organiser Becca Davies said. “The people on benefits should not have to be destroyed to pay for the banks. We all pay our taxes, corporations should do the same.”
The UK coalition government plans cuts that will cost more than 300 000 public sector jobs over four years as it tackles a £146 billion (R1.6 trillion) deficit.
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said last week that corporate tax would be reduced for the next four years, bringing it to 23 percent. The government said it would raise the bank levy next year as an offset.
“No part of our public realm is to be protected,” TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said last week. “The thousands coming to London from across the country will be speaking for their communities when they call for a plan B that saves vital services, gets the jobless back to work and tackles the deficit through growth and fair tax.”
The public are divided over the planned cuts, according to a Guardian/ICM poll of 1 014 people. Of those surveyed by telephone on March 23 and March 24, 35 percent said the cuts went too far compared with 28 percent who said they struck the right balance and 29 percent who believed they did not go far enough.
A YouGov survey for the Unison union found that 56 percent believed the cuts were too harsh.
Bank salaries and bonuses for executives have drawn criticism. RBS, which is 83 percent owned by the taxpayer, said earlier this month that it paid 323 key staff an average £1.16 million each last year. Barclays awarded chief executive Robert Diamond as much as £10.1m in salary, bonuses and stock last year.