News Flash Coutts-Flash

This was just sent in to me from wherever the off shore institutional base of UfSO is just now (having done a deal it seems):

Friday, 28 January 2011

For immediate release

Flashmob at Coutts, private bank to the British establishment

Today the University for Strategic Optimism (UfSO), light-heartedly flash-mobbed the head office of Coutts in 440 Strand, London. Dressed-up as wealthy bankers, the group presented the bank with a giant blank cheque representing the bailout it has received from the UK taxpayer. Coutts is a private bank for the super-rich and although almost entirely publicly owned by the UK tax-payer (as a subsidiary of RBS) and its main business is to help its wealthy clients to avoid paying taxes.

The peaceful action was carried out by the University for Strategic Optimism, a university based on the principle of free and open education, a return of politics to the public and the politicisation of public space. Its previous activities have included other flash-lectures in banks and shops; interventions on the tube and a conference on violence, presented live from the Parliament Square kettle at last year’s student protests. For more info, see the UfSO blog (video of today’s action coming soon).

As the queen’s own bank, Coutts is very selective of its customers and half a million pounds is the minimum requirement to open an account there. But even if you can’t afford to bank with Coutts, as a taxpayer you are among the majority shareholders of its parent company, RBS. With branches throughout the UK, Coutts specialises in what it calls ‘wealth management’ on behalf of its super-rich customers – in other words, helping them avoid paying taxes.

Coutts, one of the oldest pillars of the British financial establishment, was adopted as the location of the UfSO’s latest action in order to highlight the ridiculously unfair situation of UK taxpayers propping up a financial institution that exists primarily to help the wealthy avoid paying those the very taxes that keep it in existence. Those not rich enough to bank with Coutts are paying through their contributions for a bank that enables the wealthy to avoid them. The injustice of this situation is staggering. What’s even more staggering, is the fact that it seems very few actually realise what it is that Coutts does, and that it received funding from the government bailout.

When the government claims there is no alternative to the ongoing, devastating cuts to public services, welfare and university education, we need only look to Coutts to see that lie graphically exposed. The government is using our own money to prop up a bank, which exists in order to encourage wealthy individuals, whose private fortunes could more than tackle the deficit, to avoid paying their fair share. With its antique wallpaper and private banqueting suites, publicly owned Coutts is a parody of private privilege and vividly exposes the criminal ideology behind this government’s fire sale of our treasured public institutions. The corporate advertising slogan of such a bank should be: ‘Pay your taxes so the super-rich don’t have to’. Whilst the government is using our money to help out these tax avoiders, public services that we all rely upon are being systematically dismantled and sold off. This is the serious issue that the UfSO seeks to draw attention to with today’s action.