Deloitte, KPMG, EY, and Price Waterhouse Coopers. These are the ‘big four’ that abuse our current system to suck wealth out of our communities. They all provide encouragement and services for the super-rich and multinationals to take money out of the working economy and hide it from the tax authorities.
The amount of money they have helped stow away is eye-watering. It makes the NHS funding deficit look like pocket money.
This is all happening while the government implements a brutal austerity regime, forcing Bristol City Council to make massive cuts to vital public services. The knock-on effect is that ordinary individuals like you and me are left to prop up the economy. How are we doing it? By borrowing, often at very high rates of interest.
Personal debt can be devastating, wreaking havoc on mental health, and, combined with the retreat of government spending, leads us ever-closer to the next financial collapse. Personal debt is growing so fast that MPs have now launched an inquiry amid concerns that the next global financial crisis is around the corner. To add insult to injury, our increasing interest payments are going right back to the organisations who are abusing the system to avoid tax. The inequality gap widens.
The government exists in part to ensure that, as individuals, we do not have the choice to do things harmful to the rest of society, let alone allow harmful activities to be normalised, systematised and actively promoted.
However, we must not get distracted by pointing fingers at those who have chosen to ‘play the game’ in their favour. The naming and shaming rhetoric which focuses on individual behaviour and choices has not gotten us anywhere before – see the Panama Papers tax scandal of 2015.
What we need is a systemic shift. We must use this moment to bring forward radical and widespread changes to the system. Alternatives are there – they’ve been in the background for some time. It’s just a case of each of us choosing to bring them to the fore.
Bristol has come up with a really simple solution to tax avoidance: create a new kind of money which can’t go to tax havens. We call it the Bristol Pound. It changes the rules of how money moves, keeping it here in Bristol rather than leaking out to the Cayman Islands. It’s a small step in a globalised world, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The Bristol Pound is part of a network of diverse financial alternatives that stretches across the world, with community groups using their human moral compass and the latest financial technology to create innovative systems that work for real people in the real economy.
Right here in Bristol, you can use a mobile app to find your way to independent businesses, send an instant payment and know you’re changing the world that little bit for the better. Bristolians can all be financial activists every time they pick up a potato from the grocers.
Ciaran Mundy is a founder and chief executive of the Bristol Pound and a resident of Bristol since 2002. He trained and worked as a research scientist in soil ecology, and later worked as an entrepreneur in the telecoms and property sectors while supporting various social and environmental campaigns and research projects.