Barclays hit by protests over '1% tax bill'


Dozens of branches of Barclays were brought to a standstill by anti tax avoidance campaigners at the weekend.

barclays bank branch sign

Tax dodge: Barclays managed to reduce its tax bill to 1% of profits.

The action followed revelations that the bank paid just 1% tax in the UK on profits of more than £11bn.

UK Uncut said it occupied around 50 branches - setting up mock libraries and crèches to highlight some of the public services being axed by the Government as it attempts to whittle down the nation's deficit.

Campaigners are angry at Barclays boss Bob Diamond's defiance over the role of bankers in the economic crisis and at his inistence that the time for remorse was over.

Mr Diamond last week admitted to MPs that Barclays paid just £113m in corporation tax during 2009 - around 1% of the £11.6bn in profit it made that year.

He also revealed Barclays uses hundreds of offshore subsidiaries in tax havens - including 181 in the Cayman Islands alone - to slash the amount it pays to HM Revenue & Customs.

UK Uncut said its plan was not to shut branches down, but to 'open them up' by occupying buildings and transforming them into 'services that are under threat from the cuts'.

However, Barclays was forced to close several branches as protesters descended on its buildings in cities including London, Edinburgh and Birmingham.

The bank's Tottenham Court Road branch in London was transformed into a parenting clinic, mimicking the Sure Start family centres earmarked for closure in the cutbacks.

Demonstrators are planning further protests next Saturday to target branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland and its subsidiary NatWest.

RBS will this week hand chief executive Stephen Hester £2m for a year in which the bank is forecast to have lost up to £700m.

The bank - which is 83% owned by the taxpayer - will unveil the loss on Thursday, when it releases figures showing how it performed in 2010.

While City analysts expect a vast improvement on 2009, when RBS fell £3.6bn into the red, they are still forecasting a loss of up to £700m.

UK Uncut has established itself as the public face of anger at tax avoidance, having staged protests against the likes of Vodafone and retail billionaire Sir Philip Green's Topshop.

Spokesman Anna Walker said: 'It's quite clear Barclays and Bob Diamond don't understand the level of public anger about bonuses, tax and the role of the banks in the government. The banks should be paying the price rather than ordinary people.'

Barclays said it was 'inappropriate' to link profits made around the world to its UK tax bill.

Speaking at the G20 summit in Paris, Chancellor George Osborne said: 'I don't think banks were paying enough tax under Gordon Brown and Ed Balls.

'That's why we introduced the permanent bank tax which will raise £2.5bn every year.'