In the last few days the so called Panama Papers have hit the national headlines with details of over 200,000 companies holding secret Panama accounts aimed at tax avoidance. The documents examined so far, and there are over a million of them, show how politicians and their friends, in Russia, China and indeed the UK, are linked to Panamanian accounts.
Wyre Forest tax avoidance, as revealed by our STAWF campaign, is very small beer compared to the Panama operation, but it shows the same fundamental lack of social conscience and social justice that permeates so many areas of public life.
Readers in the Wyre Forest may be of the opinion that revelations of tax avoidance in Panama have little to do with them. But they would be wrong. The local Stop Tax Avoidance in Wyre Forest campaign (see www.stawf.org.uk) has revealed one local link to Panama, there may be others. And it has so far uncovered over 30 local property holders with offshore accounts in other countries, such as Bermuda, Jersey, Guernsey, British Virgin Isles and Mauritius. The tax paying public deserves to know who is avoiding paying their fair share. Just how many of the cuts to our local services and to Wyre Forest families could be avoided if companies paid their taxes? The government has promised action on this for some years now but has done nothing. The Panama revelations demand action not words.
Keith Budden spokesperson for Stop Tax Avoidance in Wyre Forest stated, “I was shocked to hear the revelations from Panama, and then to discover that Galmor Investments owned land on Castle Road, Kidderminster. Why do we give planning consent to companies based in Tax Havens? The Council must take a stand and stop supporting tax avoiders. The Government must stop the secrecy surrounding tax havens and ensure that everyone pays their fair share of tax. It is just plain wrong to cut public services and allow the wealthy to avoid paying tax.”
Tax havens are nothing new, and many of them are British. Despite David Cameron’s fine words over the years, the government has done nothing to stop millions of pounds being leached out of our economy each year by the wealthy. Instead of controlling the behaviour of the rich, it inflicts savage cuts on those in society least able to afford them. At every budget we see the same pattern, a transfer of money out of the pockets of ordinary people and into the bank accounts of the rich. The increasing inequality in society is either deliberate Tory policy, or could simply be the fallout from their economic ineptitude. Either way it is not a situation the country should have to tolerate.
We have all known about tax havens but the Panamanian revelations show the horrendous scale of it all. And we are looking at a leak from just one company in just one tax haven.
The Labour Party has always campaigned for greater social justice and a society where equal opportunities are available to all. We urge all members to actively help the Labour Party to bring that about.
Geo Meadows, on behalf of STAWF (Stop Tax Avoidance In Wyre Forest)