In March 2023, Worcester City Council became the 48th council in the UK to adopt the Councils for Fair Tax Declaration. Read on to discover how supporters of our Church Action for Tax Justice campaign laid the ground for this decision – could you follow their lead?
At the JustMoney Movement, we believe that tax should not be seen as a burden; it’s a way of showing love for neighbour, care for creation and creating the type of society we find in the teachings of Jesus and the prophets. Therefore, tax evasion is a gross injustice, not only because those with the means to can avoid paying their fair share while everyone else pays, but also because paying tax contributes to a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources.
Tax avoidance has been the top ethical concern in the Institute for Business Ethics’ annual survey of the British public’s attitudes towards businesses for 11 years in a row. Yet, research from the Fair Tax Foundation has shown that between 2014-19, 17.5% of UK public procurement contracts were won by businesses with connections to a tax haven.
This means that not only businesses, but councils – themselves funded by central government grants, council tax and business rates – can, directly or indirectly, be contributing to tax evasion.
The Councils for Fair Tax Declaration commits councils to ‘lead by example and demonstrate good practice in [their] tax conduct’. This covers a range of purchasing and employment practices for the council themselves, contractors, and suppliers, ensuring that tax avoidance is reduced as far as possible in their operations and procurement. It also commits councils to promote the Fair Tax Mark and calls to reform UK procurement law to better penalize poor tax conduct.
In February 2023, a Green Party councillor proposed that Worcester City Council adopt the declaration, and the decision was passed unanimously. Once approved by the relevant committee, Worcester became the 48th Fair Tax Council in the UK. Worcester is a relatively split council with representation from the four major parties, demonstrating how this issue cuts across party lines.
The impetus for this decision came from the West Midlands Church Action for Tax Justice (CATJ) group. Ian Pickering, who led on this action, tells the story:
“I have been a member of the West Midlands CATJ group for several years. I am motivated by my belief that Christian faith demands justice in tax matters for the common good. After initially encouraging the council to adopt the Councils for Fair Tax Declaration in early 2020 with no progress, we returned to the matter in 2022 after the balance of the council had shifted following local elections.
I emailed councillors in both the Labour Party and Green Party who we knew were enthusiastic to adopt Fair Tax principles. Following this, my local Green Party Councillor worked alongside the Fair Tax Foundation to prepare a proposal for the full council meeting in February 2023. Members of our local network attended the council meeting and I spoke in support of the proposal.
Following discussion among the councillors the proposal was unanimously accepted and Worcester City Council officially became a Fair Tax Council. Now we have to ensure that the council lives up to the principles it has adopted!”
This story is an example of what could be achieved by our JustMoney Champions:
- A group of Christians started meeting around a shared concern informed by their faith
- They collectively determined a way to take action in their community, identified who could grant what they were asking, and approached them in a relational but well-informed manner
- Used mutual accountability and simple, persistent requests to secure the change they wanted to see
Mary Patel, Movement Building and Outreach Manager for the Fair Tax Foundation said:
“Tax might feel inaccessible to many but tax dodging impact us all, from the high street shops struggling to compete to less support available to fund vital public services. Christians in the UK were pioneers of economic justice issues such as fair trade and it’s wonderful to see similar grassroots support for fair tax.”
Your actions may not be about tax justice, and your targets for influence may not be your local council – they might be simple actions for your fellow congregants, or more reflection on economic justice in your church’s teaching. But this is the template for how Champions can help us work for a fairer, greener future:
- Champions are connected to other Christians passionate about economic justice
- Champions share ideas and inspiration, encouraging one another to act, supporting each other with prayer and advice
- The Church in the UK begins, like yeast through dough (Matt 13:33), small action by small action, to pursue God’s vision for justice in its use of and teaching about money
If this sounds like something you’d like to explore, then join our movement of Champions for a fairer, greener future.
JustMoney Champions will be launching with an online event on Tuesday 12th September at 7:30pm – sign up here.