Hackney mayor Jules Pipe

Banking on UBS support: Hackney's directly-elected mayor, Jules Pipe. Photograph: Hackney Council

Those involved in the Occupy London movement have proved themselves both resilient and creative.

They have weathered months of cold and media smears as well as legal bids to prise them from their camps.

Their occupation of the UBS building was especially symbolic. This investment bank is one of many financial institutions worldwide to have received monumental government bailouts; in 2008 UBS faced charges of providing services to American clients seeking to evade taxes and was fined $780m by the US authorities.

And now UBS wants the occupiers out of its building, even though this had been standing empty for some time.

Occupy London thinks big corporations are hand in glove with politicians, so wouldn’t it seem reasonable to ask our elected representatives where they stand?

When the Hackney Citizen asked Hackney’s directly-elected mayor Jules Pipe whether he supports or condemns the Occupy London campaign group and its occupation of the UBS-owned building complex, he said: “This is purely a matter for the building’s owners. The protest is a London-wide issue, not specific to Hackney.”

Could his seeming reluctance to take a stance be related to the fact that UBS has been locally involved for around 27 years in numerous projects in the borough,  through the bank’s Community Affairs programme?

These have included a regeneration scheme in Shoreditch and the Bridge Academy school in Haggerston, which UBS sponsors.

As Mayor Pipe has previously said: “UBS has taken CSR [corporate social responsibility] to a level where no City institution has gone in modern times.  The firm demonstrates a serious and sustained purpose in reaching out from its City base”.

A report called Bridging Gaps, produced in 2004 by UBS, stated: “UBS will be resolutely hands-off regarding the school curriculum …

“Nevertheless UBS is a business. And a business, at some time, expects returns. Naturally, that raises the question of what kind of a return it can ever expect to get from its commitments in Hackney.”

In the same document Mayor Pipe was asked if corporations should be filling a role traditionally played by national governments.

“They are definitely filling a gap, a need,” he replied. “If the statutory  [state] sector and everything it did always worked perfectly, then a lot of this would be duplication.”

Surely the state sector might work better were it not for tax evasion, tax avoidance and the government giving our money to banks!

The charitable involvement of firms like UBS in our borough might have seemed a decent enough thing in 2004.

It now looks a tad embarrassing, or at least ironic, in light of the hardship being felt by ordinary people because of the bailouts.

Banks hand in glove with politicians?  Perish the thought!

Our prediction for 2012: more occupations.


Occupy London protestors to leave Shoreditch courthouse