Guest post: Move Your Council’s Money

The Move Your Money campaign has emerged this year as a cause célèbre. Launched in February 2012, the campaign calls on people to switch their account, current or savings, away from the too-big-to-fail, shareholder banks that helped to cause the economic crisis, and towards co-operative and mutual banks, such as credit unions and building societies.

Since the campaign’s UK launch, over 500,000 customers have left the too-big-to-fail banks in favour of local, mutual and ethical alternatives.

Widespread public anger with the kleptocratic banking industry – mired in scandals as diverse and pervasive as LIBOR rigging, PPI and CDS mis-selling, not to mention money laundering for Mexican drug cartels, combined with Westminster’s complete lack of appetite to reform ensures the continued relevance of a campaign offering positive alternatives to the too-big-to-fail banks.

For the next phase of the campaign, Move Your Money is calling on activists to lobby local authorities, to move your money from the high street banks whose contracts dominate public finance, to support the growth of mutual and ethical banks, peer to peer lending, and building societies that actively invest in the real economy.

The mutual finance industry in the UK was systematically gutted following the ‘big bang’ financial deregulation of the 1980s, leading to the closure of hundreds of small banks and building societies and the consolidation of the financial market to just four ‘too big to fail’ high street banks.

Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government for 2011-12 show a combined annual budget of £122bn for English councils alone. Figures from the Co-operative Bank indicate one third of councils currently employ its services, however, initial research by Move Your Money UK indicates many council clients only use the Co-op for a small proportion of their total banking services.

This indicates that tens, if not hundreds, of billions of pounds of public money in local authority budgets still resides with the same big four banks which crashed the economy, and set in train austerity cuts that continue to erode public sector jobs and funding.

As Rolling Stone Magazine Financial Editor Matt Taibbi sets out, the impact of LIBOR rate manipulation on local government is particularly significant. As interest rates were driven down, by Barclays, RBS, HSBC, Lloyds, and other High Street banks, further aided by Bank of England QE, – the amount of interest payable on Council capital savings accounts was decimated – leaving an even bigger hole in public sector finances.

The message from Move Your Money is simple – were UK councils to bank ethically and in the interests of local communities, the results could radically transform the alternative finance sector, stimulating local investment in deprived UK communities.

Following initial contact from Move Your Money, the Greater London Assembly (GLA) recently voted unanimously in favour of endorsing this powerful motion from Jenny Jones to pursue divestment of GLA and Transport for London banking services from Barclays, to a financial provider more in line with GLA’s stated values and ethical procurement policy.

Local government finance could be on the verge of a revolution, with the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee currently leading a debate on the benefits of codifying the relationship between central and local government. This ‘Magna Carta’ would guarantee councils’ legal and financial independence from Whitehall, establishing a legal status for councils and granting the freedom to raise and spend tax revenue in any legal way open to individuals or companies, subject to public oversight of local government procurement and spending decisions.

A council focused Move Your Money UK campaign would further both of these fundamental aspirations. For greater independence for local government from Westminster, and for greater democratic control and oversight by the public, in local government procurement and spending decisions, ensuring that banks responsible for the financial crisis do not continue to receive a free ride from the taxpayer.

Andy Haldane, the current Bank of England Executive Director for Financial Stability has said: “If as bank customers we want to change the culture of banking, then we should start by supporting those banks who are delivering that change. Putting your money where your mouth is would deliver far greater and more durable change than any amount of banker-bashing.”

Reasons for local government to bank ethically:

▪   Banks crashed the global economy, pushing an estimated 100 million people world-wide back into poverty, requiring massive taxpayer bailouts in the UK, resulting in austerity and local council cuts

▪   Councils are democratic bodies – that should act in the best interests of local residents

▪   Ethical banks don’t pay excessive salaries and bonuses
, but reinvest in the real economy

▪   Too-big-to-fail banks engineer, lobby for, and employ aggressive tax avoidance schemes for themselves and their clients – denying the UK crucial tax revenue at a time of protracted austerity and public sector cuts i.e. Barclays paying only 1% tax on a record £11.6bn 2009 profit

▪   Despite Government schemes (‘Merlin’) to encourage lending, high street banks still refuse to lend to SME’s – the lifeblood and job creators of any economy

▪   Too-big-to-fail banks continue to invest in socially useless activities, such as tar sands mining, cluster bombs, fracking, and food speculation

▪   Ethical banks do invest in the real economy, in alternative local businesses and community owned renewable energy projects

▪   High Street banks run illegal rackets such as LIBOR manipulation and aggressive mis-selling of credit default swaps and payment protection insurance, costing clients (including local authorities) millions


Reasons for local government to continue supporting too-big-to-fail

▪   Many UK councils bank with taxpayer owned RBS (NatWest) and Lloyds, – there is an argument councils divesting funds from these banks could impact share prices, harming taxpayer returns at re-sale

▪   The financial services industry provides up to 51% of party political funding – and politicians, like turkeys, don’t vote for Christmas


The reasons for supporting ethical banking largely speak for themselves.

In terms of the reasons against – initial concerns expressed by financial sector pundits in relation to the local government ethical banking campaign focus upon the potential impact to taxpayer owned RBS and Lloyds balance sheets, in the event of re-sale. There is however, another way to view the issue.

Despite an estimated £1.5 trillion spent bailing out the banking sector, taxpayer owned banks still do not invest responsibly, or in the public interest.

As an example, taxpayer owned RBS recently pursued a deal with Kraft to buy out Cadbury, which could have resulted in abandonment of Cadbury’s ethical code, and the offshoring of up to 6000 British jobs to the US and developing nations, in a merger heavily criticized by Berkshire Hathaway investment guru Warren Buffet as a bad deal for both parties. 

If profits for taxpayer owned UK banks come at the price of British jobs and tax revenues, we need to be asking ourselves if the existing bank model is something we should be supporting via taxpayer funded bailouts, and local government investment?

Taxpayer owned banks RBS and Lloyds present the Government with a unique opportunity to exert its regulatory oversight, and enforce socially responsible, ethical lending. An opportunity this Government has thus far failed to grasp.

In the USA, the Move Your Money campaign is achieving considerable success in divesting City banking funds to socially responsible lenders. The nation’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and New York City, have passed responsible banking ordinances to collect better data on banks’ community reinvestment activities and to encourage institutions that want to do business within the cities to be more accountable to local concerns.

Other localities are following suit: Seattle city council member Nick Licata has declared that “due to growing disparity in this country’s wealth, we can at the very least review the city’s banking and investment practices to ensure that public funds are invested in responsible financial institutions that support our community”.

In May 2012, the City of Buffalo, New York announced that it would move its entire pot of city funds – some $45m – to the local First Niagra Bank. Buffalo became the seventh New York municipality to divest from JP Morgan Chase in protest against the bank’s foreclosure policies, which directly impact the lives of local homeowners and small businesses.

Some UK local authorities, however, are already re-considering their banking options. Lancashire County Council will invest £100,000 into local businesses using Funding Circle, a ‘peer to peer’ lending marketplace where people directly lend to small businesses, bypassing the banks entirely. 

In discussion of his council’s £2.4bn contract with NatWest, Lambeth Councillor Paul McGlone, who sits on the finance scrutiny sub-committee observed, “it’s hard to pinpoint any tangible benefit the council receives, despite the size and value of its contract, with RBS”.

Hackney council has progressively migrated bank account services away from the larger banks, and now banks exclusively with the Co-operative Bank. Principal banking officer Chris Locke explained: “The Co-operative understand the public sector. Other banks — specialists in the private sector – understand that organizations must compete with one another. They don’t really understand that organizations can collaborate, share their research development and save a lot of money by working co-operatively.”

UK banks have been allowed to grow so large that they take their customers for granted, and no longer act in a socially responsible fashion, nor in local communities’ interest. With financial donations to political parties from the banks at record levels, there is little appetite for the necessary root and branch reforms within Westminster.

Douglas Flint – Chairman of HSBC, humbled by an ever-growing list of recent scandals took the unprecedented step of admitting self-regulation of the banks had failed, and that UK banks had ‘lost the right to self-rule’.

Despite the fall from grace of the High Street banks, predatory pay-day lenders are also getting in on the political lobbying game. The recent departure of David Cameron’s senior advisor Jonathan Luff to work for pay-day lender Wonga – highlights the ‘revolving door’ between Government and financial sector corporations, and the lack of political will to tackle the legal ‘loan shark’ industry.

Nobody personifies the toxic nature of the revolving door better than Angela Knight. Knight is a former Conservative Party MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and former CEO and firewall of the British Bankers Association (BBA), who presided over the illegal manipulation of the $300 Trillion LIBOR global interest rate benchmark.

Knight resigned from the BBA earlier this year, departing amidst the furor of the Barclays LIBOR scandal, accepting a role with an energy sector lobby group Energy UK, beginning in September.

Knight coincidentally, is now defending further illegal market rigging in the UK gas sector, where winter fuel poverty results in the preventable deaths of 65 UK citizens every day. Knight has recently been appointed to the board of TFL by Mayor Boris Johnson, – often criticized for his unconditional support of Barclays and the London financial sector.

Knight’s replacement at the BBA, Anthony Browne, is a former advisor to Boris Johnson, and is the Head of Morgan Stanley ‘Government Relations’ – EMEA region. Brown is also a former economics correspondent for the BBC, and was previously Director of center–right policy think tank Policy Exchange – once being described as ‘bordering on fascism.’

Clearly, political lobbying and financial sector influence on Government policy is out of control, and urgent action must be taken to address the crisis of democracy.

It is here local government can take the initiative, bypassing the revolving door within Westminster (which enables wealth extraction by banks and corporations), by encouraging a return to ethical local investment by socially responsible financial institutions, which have a stake in the local community and actively invest in its future.

Councils can take the lead, stimulating investment in peer to peer lending, local credit unions, co-operative and ethical banks, growing the alternative financial sector and improving access to low cost credit for the financially excluded – reducing demand for predatory pay day lenders such as Wonga.

The Tax Justice Network (Richard Murphy), with assistance from Ethical Consumer have been busy researching successful EU local government policies designed to exclude Corporations operating within secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens, from bidding on council contracts. It is hoped such provisions will be widely adopted by UK local government in an attempt to close the ‘tax gap’ estimated at £120 billion per year – which deprives communities of significant tax revenues and investment spending, at a time of protracted austerity.

This winter, Move Your Money will be conducting research with the aim of creating an ethical finance toolkit for local authorities. We hope this will encourage and guide councils seeking to move public funds into ethical, local and mutual alternatives.

 We want to hear from activists who have an interest in lobbying their local council to move your money from too-big-to-fail, to mutual and ethical banks. We see this action as a catalyst to ensure ongoing investment in deprived UK communities, whilst sending a powerful message that as citizens – we will not sit idle and watch our tax revenues feather the nests of fat-cat City bankers.

Move Your Money UK would like to hear from councils and staff interested in taking part in consultation, and acting as ‘demonstrator councils’ in moving taxpayer money to mutual and ethical banking providers. Please contact for further details.

Tax – to pay or not to pay – that is the question

To pay or not to pay, that is the question; whether ’tis nobler in the heart to support the causes and wars of outrageous government or to stand against this sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?

By paying tax you:

  • give your consent to the illegal actions of Parliament and the UK Government;
  • support the wars with Afghanistan and Libya and the illegal occupation of Iraq;
  • break the international laws of war and commit offences of accessory to murder and conduct ancillary to war crimes;
  • pay for the cruise missiles, rockets, cluster bombs, drones,  mortars and depleted uranium munitions used against innocent men, women and children;
  • condone the murders by NATO  forces of 800,000 adults and 400,000 children – the worst atrocities in UK and US history;
  • guarantee to repay Government debts;
  • endorse the brutality of police actions against peaceful students, protestors, the homeless and the Dale farm travellers;
  • assist St Paul’s to close its doors to the poor and dispossessed in favour of bankers moneylenders and stockbrokers;
  • prop up the institutions of the rich and powerful and support government cuts to welfare, health services and education.
  • Reinforce the apathy of the electorate.

By refusing to pay tax you:

  • withdraw your consent to the actions of Parliament and the UK Government;
  • take a stand against injustice, inequality and Britain’s unfair, undemocratic systems of business, banking and government;
  • uphold the rule of law and the promises and assurances given to the world when Britain signed and ratified the UN Charter;
  • champion the cause of the poor and the dispossessed against the rich and powerful;
  • ensure the prosecution of Britain’s political, civil and military leaders for crimes against the Afghan, Iraqi and Libyan people;
  • will force the resignation from Government and law enforcement authorities of those responsible for breaking the laws of war;
  • will force MPs to represent the wishes of constituents rather than pandering to party orders or the inducements of unelected, unaccountable companies and institutions;
  • will force a change of Government and the election to Parliament of MPs who have pledged to pursue the will of constituents and to implement the demands of the 99% specified in the People’s Charter.
  • Stand up for equality, justice & democracy



I/We have paid your invoice in full but have deducted the VAT on the grounds that it is a war crime to pay tax to a Government that uses the funds to wage illegal war.

As the wars with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are illegal in international law, the actions of HM Government in using armed force to attack and kill 1.5m Afghan, Iraqi and Libyan men women and children are war crimes.   Under the legal doctrine of joint enterprise, anyone who provides material support to a Government that is acting unlawfully is criminally liable for prosecution and punishment as a principal offender.

As the payment of tax constitutes material support for the war crimes committed by NATO and ISAF forces, all taxpayers who continue to pay taxes to the UK Government become accessories to the war crimes and are liable for arrest and prosecution for ‘complicity in a war of aggression’ and ‘conduct ancillary to war crimes’.

This is to inform you that under no circumstances will I/we take part in the illegal war with Afghanistan or provide financial support for the willful killing of civilians.

Please give this leaflet to HM Revenue & Customs informing them that your customers have refused to pay VAT on the grounds that they will commit a crime if they do so and ask HMR&C to contact us at if they wish to claim the tax.

You may also wish to let HMR&C know that you do not wish to commit a crime and will withhold VAT and other taxes until such time that you receive a court order notifying all taxpayers that the illegal war with Afghanistan has ended, the use of armed force to attack and kill Afghan citizens has ceased and criminal proceedings have begun against all those responsible for war crimes against the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Total of VAT deducted ______________________                          Date _________________



Q.  Will I get into trouble if I don’t pay the VAT?

A.   NO.   But you may get into trouble if you DO pay the VAT.   Remember that in law it is a crime to pay tax to a Government that is waging an illegal war of aggression.  As the UK Government has been waging illegal war in Afghanistan since October 2001 you have an international legal duty to refuse to pay VAT.   Paying VAT is a criminal offence and renders you liable for arrest and prosecution as an accessory to the crimes.

Q.  Will I get into trouble if I don’t pay the bill?

A.   YES.  You must pay the shopkeeper / retailer / restauranteur / publican for your purchase.   Failure to pay for the goods or services you have purchased from the retailer is a criminal offence of theft, so pay for everything that you’ve bought except the Value Added Tax and the retailer will be delighted to have made a sale and will be keen to have your repeat business in future. 

If the owner or manager refuses to accept this argument and threatens to call the police you should remind him / her that:

(i)      You have paid for your purchase in full, and as they have lost nothing you have done nothing wrong and cannot be lawfully arrested or detained by the police.

(ii)     All that you are asking them to do is to pass on evidence of your refusal to pay VAT to HMR&C.  You have signed and dated the refusal document with the amount that you are refusing to pay.  If HMR&C wish to claim the unpaid tax then they must do so from you via the Tax Rebellion, not from the retailer.

(iii)   He or she is acting as a tax collecting agent of the Government and by paying tax to the Government knowing that it will provide material support for the illegal wars, he or she is committing a serious crime and is criminally liable for arrest, prosecution and punishment as an accessory to murder and war crimes[1].

(iv)    As a customer you consider their treatment of you to be unwarranted and will ensure that you and your friends will take your business elsewhere.

Remember you’ll only get into trouble if you pay the VAT


[1] The relevant legislation in England and Wales governing conduct ancillary to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes is Section 52 of The International Criminal Court Act 2001, in Northern Ireland S. 59 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001, and in Scotland it is S.2 the International Criminal Court (Scotland) Act 2001.

Join the Lawful Tax Rebellion

History shows us that the most effective way of resisting illegitimate Government action is to engage in tax rebellion.  Magna Carta, the founding of the United States of America, the end of the Vietnam War and the repeal of the poll tax all came about as a result of tax rebellions – the refusal of the people to pay taxes.  

Today we have an opportunity not only to repeat the tax strike successes of our forbears but for the first time in history to engage in lawful rebellion. Under the international laws of war agreed at the end of WWII every citizen has a legal duty to refuse to obey the orders of a Government that wages a war of aggression.   This duty to refuse to obey unlawful Government orders includes tax demands; if a government uses the money raised from taxation for purposes that are manifestly unlawful then the taxpayer’s normal duty to pay tax is immediately reversed and becomes a duty to refuse to pay tax.


As British and NATO Governments have waged three illegal wars of aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya since 2001 killing at least 1.5m innocent civilians, including 450,000 children, they have violated war law, breached the UN Charter and committed genocide, crimes against humanity and numerous war crimes.   Under the laws of war[1] every British (and NATO) citizen is duty bound to do all in their power to stop the killing, end the wars and bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice.  These massacres and atrocities must be stopped.

By joining together as a Taxpayers Union in tax rebellion we can force UK, US and NATO Governments to end the wars and the killings within days.   Without the money to pay the troops, purchase the weapons or supply the armed forces Governments are powerless.  Only if the people continue to pay tax can Governments continue their war crimes.   So it is down to taxpayers to end the carnage.    If you want to stop the killing and the killers then stop paying tax.   If you want to continue the wars and take part in the killing then continue paying tax.    The choice is stark.   The choice is yours.

Join the tax rebellion – force Governments to obey the rule of law

[1] The Treaty for the Renunciation of War (Kellogg-Briand Pact), the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal, the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremburg Principles, the Proxmire Act, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and The International Criminal Court Act 2001.

Try the bankers before a ‘Financial Nuremberg’

Some months ago, I came across an inspiring campaign by lawyer Polly Higgins to introduce a crime of ‘ecocide’ to the International Criminal Court as the 5th crime against the peace.

Turns out, multi-national corporations like BP and Shell currently digging up the Tar Sands in Canada get their way because the destruction of intact ecosystems which sustain us is not currently a criminal offence – except in a time of war.

Equally shocking in the wake of the global financial crisis, is the revelation that a similar loophole applies to multi-national financial institutions which operate globally through a multitude of offshore accounts and subsidiaries – restricting the role of regulators. There is currently no law against intentionally destabilising the global financial system.

We can only prosecute trans-national corporations within the geographical borders of the nation state. This represents a terrifying mismatch of economic vs regulatory power when of the largest 100 economic entities globally, 51 are corporations.

With the news this week that Barclay’s and a consortia of banks illegally rigged the London inter-bank (LIBOR) loans rates in their favour in trillion $ international markets, it raises the obvious question of how the hell we bring the mafia banking cartel to justice.

Financial blogger Frances Coppola posted prior to the LIBOR scandal that the creation of a Financial Nuremberg (in reference to post WWII Nazi trials) is needed to establish an international mechanism dedicated to prosecuting increasingly complex financial fraud.

The limp wristed response to the Barclays criminality thus far by both FSA regulators and Government would only seem to enhance the claim that an international body is required to fill the void. With financial services providing 51% of Conservative Party donations, few expect David Cameron to take the required action to pull these corrupt and oversized institutions to heel. The failure is systemic, and corruption exists throughout the British establishment.

In order to fix the LIBOR rates, Barclays required the cooperation of other banks and the regulators – the British Banking Association (BBA). It should then come as no surprise that Marcus Agius is both the chairman of Barclays, and the honorary chairman of the BBA who set the LIBOR. But it gets better, he is also an independent director at the BBC. This constitutes mafia style mob rule, plain and simple. Its time to clean house.

Regardless of whether Barclays CEO Bob Diamond stays or goes, there has to be a serious investigation of the role of banking and its excessive political influence in UK society.

Respected economist Ann Pettifor has started a petition which is currently gaining signatures at a rate of 250 p/hour calling for a Leveson style independent inquiry into practice and ethics of UK banks with the possibility of criminal prosecutions to follow.

Financial services apologists and cheerleaders hiding beneath the parapets in their tax-haven enclave inside the ‘medieval, unaccountable, City of London’ will be hoping this all just blows over in time for the Olympics, so that the Lord Mayor, Boris and his principle financiers at Barclays can have their moment of glory in front of the worlds media.

I for one would like to see an altogether different scenario play out. Just imagine for one moment that this LIBOR scandal which is soon to drag in UBS, HSBC and RBS is the catalyst that finally after four years of bailouts, bonuses, and corporate QE welfare – sparks the outrage of the British public to demand an inquiry and reform the toxic banking culture.

Heading into the Olympics showpiece with the banks in full public retreat and the Mayor, Chancellor, Prime Minister and City Establishment all sweating at the prospect of upcoming public embarrassment, and possible criminal investigation is certainly a noble end worthy of pursuing.

Cozy relations between banks and key public figures such as Boris Johnson whose once vaunted Barclays cycle hire scheme now resembles a limp albatross slung around his  enormous birds nest of a melon must be investigated, and see the light of day.

One thing remains abundantly clear, those who created the shambles of the Global Financial Crisis are yet to face responsibility for it. It’s imply not enough for David Cameron and Mervyn King to waffle on about culture change in the midst of criminal wrongdoing.

We need a full independent investigation into corrupt banking practices and those who have acted illegally should be facing serious jail time. As per Coppola’s proposal, we should investigate mechanisms to make international financial crimes punishable in the ICC to bring bankers to justice on the global stage.

It is absurd that bankers can intentionally crash the global economy, bet on, and profit from it, manipulate interest rates, and yet still be walking free enjoying million pound salaries, when teenagers sit in jails for stealing bottled water.

If our society and Prime Minister should condemn 12 year old children looting during the riots as ‘pure criminality’, we should show the same moral outrage and condemnation in prosecuting millionaire bankers who ought to know better.

It would seem the bent City Boys are finally facing potential jail time for their actions, and its up to all of us ensure sanity and democracy is restored and prosecution follows through.

Finally, it would appear the Bob Diamonds of this world are operating on borrowed time…because lets face it – were we French, we’d be calling for the guillotine already.

The Global Teach-In Review: Building a new economy and new wealth through democracy networks, green jobs and planning, and an alternative financial system.

On Wednesday 25 April 2012, the Global Teach-In took place across 20 Cities in no fewer than 7 Countries – featuring a broad range of speakers on issues ranging from the environment, education, finance, the military industrial complex, activism, and the economy.

Posed with one fundamental question – How can we transfer economic and political power from the 1% to the 99% – in order to transform our society and meet the triple crisis of peak oil, climate change and recession.

 Firstly lets outline the problems:

Bill McKibben, author, activist and creator of the climate activism platform opened the Global Teach-In with the following call to action:

 In the last 20 years, we have managed to take our planet out of the Holocene period. We have melted 40% of the summer ice in the arctic, the oceans are 30% more acidic, and the atmosphere holds 4% more water vapour, and that loads the dice in favour of floods and drought.

Scientists say 350 parts-per-million (ppm) Co2 is the maximum increase we should allow, we are currently at 390 ppm. We have already raised the temperature 1°C and scientists tell us it will be 3-4°C unless we rapidly change our current practices.

The fossil fuel industry is the most profitable industry the world has ever known. It is also the only industry allowed to pump pollution into the air for free. Until that ends, we wont be able to deal with the problem effectively.

In London, Bruce Nixon – change maker and Author of A Better World is Possible spoke to the global scale of the crisis and the existing barriers to addressing it:

‘We face the biggest challenge in our history. Climate change is just one symptom of our failure to live in harmony with mother earth and all life on it, including each other. There are five issues confronting us which are inseparably linked:

  • Climate change – we must act before we reach a tipping point of out of control and irreversible climate chaos
  • Peak everything – not just Peak Oil. Fossil fuel, embedded in almost everything we consume, made our extraordinary way of life possible. We’ll have to do without it.
  • We are destroying the ecosystem on which all life depends, poisoning the air all creatures breathe, the water of which life is made and the earth
  • Poverty and economic injustice
  • Violence, war, terrorism and the threat of nuclear annihilation

Governments are diverted from tackling these priorities by an economic crisis, brought about by reckless greed and debt. The current system transfers wealth from those who create it to rich and powerful elites. It increases inequality. Continuous growth, based on ever increasing consumption, defies common sense when we’re already consuming 30% more than the Earth can provide, our population is set to rise from 6.7bn to 9bn by the end of the century and human expectations are rising.

We need to transform the system. Patching things up won’t work. Everyone needs to be engaged in a great endeavour – a great transition to a sustainable and just economy.’

However with the Euro zone back in recession – and social welfare spending being slashed at alarming rates, driving up inequality, where is the money for social transformation to come from?

As Paul Krugman writes for the NY Times following the recent electoral results from Greece and France – the answer is not going to be further austerity:

Reference Key Campaigns for System Change 9 Planetary Boundaries

Somewhat fortuitously – April 25 2012 was the day in which the UK was officially declared  to be in double dip recession – thanks in no small part to the disastrous combination of austerity and trickle down’ economic policy practiced by George Osborne and David Cameron.

Colin Hines of the New Economics Foundations – Green New Deal Group spoke powerfully against the folly of the neo-liberals and the so-called free market agenda. Hines led a stinging attack on the failed economic policies of Osborne and Cameron –  setting out the origins of the present obsession with austerity in post-industrial Thatcherism. Hines remarked: Margaret Thatcher has left the world four terrible letters – T.I.N.A – There Is No Alternative.

 When it was suggested to George Osborne that austerity is failing and the UK economy was going backwards – he simply pointed the finger of blame at Europe and stubbornly refused to consider a Plan B. It seems TINA is a alive and well within this Government.

Intergenerational Equity

When it comes to both climate change and austerity – tragically it is the youth and future generations who are paying the price for this generations inaction, greed and feckless irresponsibility.

Youth unemployment in Eurozone economies is staggeringly high – 50% in Spain and reaching similar levels in Portugal and Greece. For those still in tertiary education – the prospects seem little better. In the UK, tertiary tuition fees were increased 300% after the Liberal Democrats had made a pre-election pledge to freeze fees at existing levels.

Record tuition debts will be further compounded by record high, and steadily increasing levels of graduate unemployment.

Pam Brown from the New School for Social Research USA spoke to the dire state of affairs in the tertiary education sector:  ‘Student Debt has now reached $1 Trillion – $1K for every man woman and child in the USA. Education should be a universal right, not profit for Wall Street. One in 3 black students owe more than $48,000 due to predatory lending practices. Private Institutions managing student loans are completely unaccountable – there has been a 500% increase in student loans since 1980.

April 25 2012 was declared a national day of action for student loan forgiveness in the USA. Students are being encouraged to pledge refusal of loan payments in a campaign known as Occupy Student Debt which is assured to find a sympathetic global audience.

Add link to Occupy Student Debt:

 Neoliberalism and Austerity isn’t working – but what are the alternatives?

 Former US Vice President Al Gore has said – in order to solve the climate crisis, we have to solve the democracy crisis.

 Bill McKibbon described the present state of affairs thus: “The archillies heel of moderrn economic arrangements is the reliance on fossil fuels – we can no longer continue this due to its ecological effects, but dealing with that problem will have the most pervasive effects for democracizing our society of any step I can think of”

The Global Teach-In made a strong case for economic and political transformation – replacing Corporotocracy with functioning participatory Democracy.

We are increasingly being told that renewable energy is too expensive, George Osborne attempting to justify regression on the Green Deal and the slashing of Solar Feed-In Tariffs outlined in Budget 2012 remarked: “environmentally sustainable has to be fiscally sustainable too.”

Osborne is deluded, yet what he fails to mention is that the fossil fuel industry is heavily subsidised by the Government and is allowed to continue pumping out its pollution for free. We must end oil subsidies so that renewables can compete at a fair price, which includes the costs  pollution to society.

For Osborne to infer there is no money to confront climate change, commit to a renewable energy transformation and stimulate the economy from the grip of depression is pure folly. And that is before we begin to consider the financial implications of inaction, as set out in the 2005 Stern Review.

The greatest challenge since World War 2

Following World War II Europe lay in ruin, European countries including Britain had accumulated record wartime debts, empire had been surrendered and a generation of working age men and women had been killed or wounded. The physical destruction  of the European landscape was compounded by economic stagnation and paralysis of transport infrastructure. 

What followed was record financial stimulus, infrastructure investment, and the roll out of the welfare state that delivered the National Health Service, pension funds and an age of prosperity and enlightenment which ushered in the formation of the European Union and the United Nations.

Investment to rebuild a war-torn Europe was facilitated in no small part by the visionary policies of the United States Government, one of the few participating nations to emerge from the conflict with its economy unscathed and indeed strengthened. President Roosevelt and Secretary of State General Marshall thus rolled out the European Recovery Program to rebuild Europe – which became known as the Marshall Plan. 

Colin Hines Convenor of the Green New Deal group – ‘studied what Roosevelt did with the Marshall Plan back in the 1940s, and then greened it, and called it the Green New Deal.’ Hines spoke of his work implementing the Green New Deal with Birmingham Council: ‘Britain must train a carbon army to crawl over every building and achieve energy efficiency.’

In facilitating the Green New Deal – Birmingham Council is investing millions of pounds in energy efficiency projects to achieve the necessary scale to pull in pension fund investment to the scheme, ensuring sustainable ongoing investment.

We must recapture the vision and scale of the post-war economic transformation of Europe, but use it to drive transformation toward a renewable based economy.

On the 3rd of May The Climate Justice Collective organised the Big Six Energy Bash to draw attention to the social and environmental consequences of the oligopoly strangle hold position that big energy companies exert over the UK energy sector – spiking prices and actively resisting calls for a transition to, and investment in renewable energy.

The failure to redress the environmental crisis and persistent increase of inequality in both rich and poor nations have been driven by economic models which are geared towards the pursuit of profits and corporate well-being above the the promotion of the welfare of peoples, their local environments and life as a whole.

In order to challenge the status quo – protesters and the left must learn to combine political protest, with cooperative consumer power and build alternative economic institutions.

 Forming and supporting locally owned energy cooperatives such as the Brixton Energy Co-op is one way of doing this:.  However it is even more effective when communities create their own cooperatively based self-sustaining economies – and this begins with moving your money to an ethical or cooperative bank.

Online activism website 38 degrees recently ran a collective bargaining auction for 200,000 UK consumers sick of paying high energy prices – the supply contract was won by a Cooperative energy – firm saving the average British consumer who signs up around £123 per year.

and with any luck making inroads into the overblown remuneration of the Big Six executives.

which actively undermine the market dominance of the neoliberals, and dilute existing political and media influence.

Whilst protest and direct action provide an increasingly important tool in the uphill struggle to wrest back the Government agenda from cashed-up neoliberals – it is important to recognise they do not directly threaten the economic base, which allows for corporate control of the Government narrative.

Monied interests exert disproportionate influence over elections, policy-making, and enforcement; organised labor and other forms of community autonomous organisations have been broken up, and redistributive social safety nets have been dismantled. The result has been the breakdown of the social fabric and the consequent backslide of social and environmental rights hard fought and won in previous decades.


Structural Change and Transformation:

 The present system of development is ecologically predatory, socially perverse, politically unjust, culturally alienating and ethically repulsive. Corporate social responsibility is an oxymoron. Structural transformation is required.

Friends of the Earth estimate that to achieve structural change in our societies and economies Governments have 2/3 responsibility, with 1/3 residing with individuals.

 Educated consumers acting strategically and cooperatively can get us part way – but they cant do it alone. The support of Government and business must be engaged to achieve the necessary economic and political transformation.

According to Joanne Landy – ‘We have to honestly say we dont have a plan to achieve a sustainable global economy without resistance from Corporations. We need to replace the IMF and World Bank with other institutions, which are democratically accountable.’

 Noel Ortega – Coordinator New Economy Working Group – Washington DC. The labour power base has declined, we need to rebuild but must also challenge the concentration of wealth – the 1%.The Occupy movement around the country is becoming strategic and aware. Local Networks, Cities, Local Mutual Banks. Example of Cleveland & locally owned co-op hubs working co-operatively on a regional level. Communities are bringing new economic models through co-operative economics. The foundation of the next great progressive era.

 Hines latest book Progressive Protectionism is somewhat more radical. On the subject of neoliberalism: Neoliberalism is still in the driving seat. The opponents are not even in the car.He rates progressive protectionism as – the only effective challenge to neoliberalism.

 Based on the angered reaction to Hines think-piece from the conservatives – you get the impression he may be onto something. Responding to a Hines article in the Telegraph, Tim Worstall

 Robert Pollin – PERI, University of Massachusetts – Investing in education creates 2.5x more jobs than military spending. Investing in green jobs creates 17 jobs per million invested. Same investment in oil and gas creates only five. Investing in green jobs now creates the new jobs we need for future generations.

 Chris Townsend – The push for energy efficient light bulbs destroyed heavily unionised labour in the USA and exported jobs to China. Corporate powers are trying to ride the green wave and manipulate it to casualise the labour force. GE electric vehicle manufacturers are now facing 45% pay cuts.

 Brian DAgostino 60% of US Military budget comes from the taxes of the USA middle class. We need spending for the 99% not the 1%. Need at home green manufacturing and a Green New Deal for poor and lower middle classes, schools and neighbourhoods. Not military spend.

 Joel Rogers The next 20 years are going to be very tough. How do we build a fighting public in cities to demand the things we want? Imagine a vast happy world in 20 years time, we have freedom, democratic institutions, education. 25 April is Anzac day in Australia, and New Zealand where I was born. The term ANZAC refers to the Australia & New Zealand Army Corps – troops used as canon fodder on the frontlines of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in Turkey by then Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Winston Churchill. A day which serves to highlight both the contempt shown for soldiers lives, and the need for ongoing wars to satisfy the military industrial complex thirst for profits born of human blood. It appears Thatcherism is alive and well within the Tory party.

 The Occupy movement must learn and adapt learn from its promising beginnings in the Autumn of 2011. Thus far, Occupy UK, flying in the face of a hostile British media has struggled to capture broad political support from the middle. It must learn to transform the political capital it does wield into economic capital. Its been a great pleasure to go and speak at 9 or 10 Occupy encampments around the world. The first wave [of Occupy] was we are sitting here and saying we are not going away. I think articulating that basic rage at the unfairness of a rigged system was a perfectly useful thing. Now in most places the temple has been torn down, and Occupy is in diaspora, and for the moment the police chiefs of the world think that is a great thing, but history would indicate diasporas can be powerful settings as people are forced to take out of the ark the heart of these ideas and get them into the world where they matter.

The Global Teach-In Wed 25 April – LSE. Why you should be there…

On Wednesday April 25, the GLOBAL TEACH-IN is taking place from 4:30 – 9pm at the London School of Economics – Connaught House – Room 1.04.

This interactive and participatory event will include discussions by experts, grassroots activists and citizens at large, concerned about developing solutions to policy problems and creating alternative social and economic institutions.  The Teach-In will involve face-to-face deliberation, teleconferencing and an internet-based broadcasting network.

The Global Teach-In is an innovative real time global event being organised by Jonathan Feldman – Assoc Professor of Economics at Stockholm University. The Teach-In pulls together Occupy, activists, and change-makers, with some of the world’s most progressive thinkers, to discuss innovative new ways of transforming our economies, and building new industrial power from the grass-roots, based upon principles of co-operative ethical investment in renewable energy, mass transit, and a locally based economy and food supply. Follow this link and watch the Global Teach-In promotional video. 

Global speakers include Bill McKibben – author and founder of, Gar Alperovitz, historian, political economist, and the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, Ellen Brown attorney and president of the Public Banking Institute, Oscar Kjellberg, economist, agronomist and creator of the Swedish interest free JAK Bank.

Here in London, we are lucky to have secured the services of Colin Hines, former Greenpeace economist and Convenor of the Green New Deal Group, Bruce Nixon – change maker and author of Another World is Possible, and Danielle Paffard – director at Move Your Money UK and campaigner for UK Uncut and a Robin Hood Tax.

One of the most exciting aspects of the Global Teach-In is the opportunity to form, and participate in, ongoing ‘study clusters’, bringing together people with similar interests to knowledge share, and to learn and apply the best global ideas to their local environment.

Please come along and participate in the Global Teach-In, bring a friend, loads of energy and be prepared to actively participate in some thought provoking discussion.

To confirm attendance, RSVP to the event facebook page and follow @globalteachin for updates on twitter.

Look forward to seeing you there…