August 5, 2021

When the Hackney Preacher met the City PR people

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City_misc_020-590x393By Mark Cobley From The Tally efinancial news

Labour’s first-ever councilman on the City of London Corporation, a reverend who also blogs as the ‘Hackney Preacher’, went for a sit-down this week with TheCityUK, which lobbies for London’s financial industry. It all went well until he started asking them about tax evasion.

William Campbell-Taylor, who was elected for Labour last year in a historic byelection in the City’s Portsoken Ward, met with Ben Price, director of policy at TheCityUK, on Monday.

He sprung a question on him about the importance to the City of UK overseas dependencies such as the Cayman Islands (legal “home” to most of the hedge fund industry) and Bermuda, which many people decry as tax havens.

A topical point, given the HSBC revelations and the fact that until February 14, the former HSBC chief executive Lord Green was chairman of the advisory council at… er, TheCityUK.

But Campbell-Taylor didn’t seem to get the answers he was after. He has now followed up with an open letter to Price, who only took on his current job in June.

The Preacher writes: “You may only have been in the job a short time but, if you don’t mind me saying so, you have already perfected that look of puzzled innocence when questioned about the importance to the UK financial services industry of our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies as zero tax jurisdictions.

“Can it honestly be the case that you ‘have no clear policy lines on their role’? Can it be true that ‘this is not something that any of [your] members have really ever bothered about’?”

Campbell-Taylor’s letter can be found in full on his blog.

As for TheCityUK, they are opting for diplomacy, with a spokeswoman stating: “TheCityUK was happy to meet with the Reverend at his request in his capacity as a Common Councilman of the City of London Corporation. It is for government to set tax policy and we expect our members to comply with relevant law.”

She also set out the lobbying body’s argument that “financial services pays its way” in terms of tax. She said: “According to PwC’s Seventh Total Tax Contribution of UK Financial Services Study, commissioned by the City of London Corporation, the UK financial services industry pays more in tax revenue than any other industry.

“In 2013/14 it contributed £66bn in tax revenue, accounting for 11.5% of total UK tax receipts – enough to cover three-quarters of the projected public sector deficit for 2014/15.”

Speaking to FN yesterday, Campbell-Taylor replied: “No one is saying that financial services is not important! But it would still be good to know what they thought of the non-publication of registers of beneficial interests [in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda].”

When Campbell-Taylor was elected last March, it was seen as something of a minor revolution in London politics. By longstanding tradition, the City of London Corporation – the Square Mile’s idiosyncratic local authority – was the only one in the UK that had no party-political representatives.

Aside from the Preacher, all its members sit as independents, though one can fairly assume that Conservative views are quite well represented.

Well, now Labour views are as well. And it seems their councilman is already ruffling a few feathers.

Correction: Campbell-Taylor was elected last March, not April as stated in the original version of this story.

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