From Panama to Paradise: break the cycle and change the system with Bristol Pounds

It seems nothing will prevent tax avoidance by the super-rich, but as Bristolians we can opt out of the system altogether.

It’s been 18 months since the scandal of the Panama Papers revealed the astonishing scale to which the super-rich hide their wealth, avoiding tax with the help of offshore law firms and accountants. As news breaks this morning of the leaked Paradise Papers, many in the UK will feel furious. Whilst ordinary people suffer crippling austerity, the rich pay huge amounts to lawyers and accountants willing to push the limits of every tax law to avoid paying the tax used for vital public services.

The Queen is embroiled in the latest tax avoidance scandal

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Event: Introduction to ethical finance for businesses

Prospects Network - Bristol Pound

Bristol is a hotbed of alternative ways of doing things – that includes finance for small and medium size businesses. Bristol Pound members are coming together to hear how they can benefit from using the many ethical finance options available in the city – and you’re invited.

What: Introduction to Ethical Finance for Small & Medium Size Businesses
When: Wednesday 8 June, 10am – 1pm
Where: Tobacco Factory, Raleigh Rd, Bristol, BS3 1TF

Book your place now

Bristol Pound are working with the city’s sustainability champions, Go Green, for this morning workshop at the Tobacco Factory to help you join the dots between your company’s values and the financial services you use.

Speakers include:

Wren Aigaki-Lander – Within People
Alex Higgins – Triodos Bank
Steve Clarke – Bristol Pound
Vicki Woolley – Bristol Green Capital Partnership
Jack Farmer – LettUs Grow

The agenda

Enjoy a tasty, sustainably sourced breakfast with like-minded local businesses and learn how you can align ethical finance with your company’s purpose.

Hear how values are integral to decision making at Triodos Bank.

Find out how Bristol Pound’s new Prospects Network for SMEs can benefit you.

Get practical tips to help you identify the positive difference your company’s financial choices can make.

Investigate if crowdfunding could suit your business.

This is a great opportunity to complement your business’ ethos with your finances – and reap the benefits of doing so. Discounted places are available for Bristol Pound members but they’re limited so book now:

Book now

Together we’ll explore the unique opportunities Bristol businesses have to shape their world and grow their business by choosing from the ethical finance options the city has pioneered.


Why we don’t have a fair money system

I was dumb-struck when I heard yesterday how much money super-rich people and corporations are hiding using the offshore banking system. Billions of pounds are being put through bank accounts across the world to avoid paying tax – and by some very recognisable names.

Tax haven stunt by ActionAid

The names in the leaked Panama Papers are making headlines today but back in 2010 Nicholas Shaxson, in his book Treasure Islands, made it very clear this was a growing problem reaching over £20tn at the time. That figure is likely much higher today. This matters because it is money that no longer supports the jobs and lives of ordinary people and the public services they depend on.

There is a lot of outrage at the enormous scale of hidden and stolen wealth – and rightly so. However, it is important to remember this is the tip of an iceberg and we should not be fooled into thinking it is the work mainly of corrupt despots and bad apples in overseas nations.

The City of London is the epicentre for much of the world’s shadowy banking. Most of the hidden wealth is the product of endless hours of hard work by ordinary people, siphoned upwards, sometimes through corrupt governments but it has become normal in some corporate and wealthy circles. Wrestling it back through introducing a fairer system requires a recognition of how widespread it is.

For me the question is not whether a criminal act has been committed, but why we have money and banking system that actively encourages this hoarding of wealth by a tiny minority of people. It does not need to and ultimately serves no-one – I doubt even those with the swollen offshore accounts.

In terms of well-being it has long been understood that increasing wealth above a relatively mundane £20 or £30k does not bring greater happiness, in fact it may well be the reverse.

The rapacious pursuit of wealth and power that some of these people are compelled by seems to me a problem and not something we should structure monetary and banking systems to serve.

In Bristol it is now very possible to avoid much of the system all-together by using Bristol Pounds. Thousands of people have started on this journey of using local money that stems the losses into the shadow banking system. It is a simple but powerful way to prevent money going offshore and sends a clear signal to those that run the current system that we want more positive values-based financial services that serve real people and real jobs.

We need many more people to join us and we are supporting similar schemes across the UK. We want to be a small start in a great and building movement to take back our economy. In two weeks we will meet with dozens of similar schemes at the Guild of Independent Currencies in Liverpool. Our goal is to support each other at a national and international level and together create money that serves society at large right now and helps create a better future too.

Ciaran Mundy is Chief Executive Officer of the Bristol Pound.

Picture credit: ActionAid UK