The Tax Justice Bus pulled up outside Guildford Cathedral this lunchtime to raise awareness amongst Surrey residents of the damage caused to poor communities by tax dodging.
Greeted by the Bishop of Dorking, the busâ€™ stop at the Cathedral marks day 21 of a 53 day tour, organised by Christian Aid and Church Action on Poverty, which will see the bright red double-decker make 200 stops across the country.
An African perspective
While the bus was at the Cathedral, Bishop Ian had the opportunity to talk with one of the tourâ€™s international partners, Savior Mwambwa, Executive Director of the Zambian Centre for Trade Policy and Development.
â€œWeâ€™re trying to get senior church leaders at every stop,â€ Daniel Sinclair, London and South East Regional Manager of Christian Aid, said, hoping to make churches across the country more aware of the issues.
â€œRight now, the Bishopâ€™s upstairs hearing about how tax dodging is hurting the poorest communities in Zambia, and hearing how our government can play a vital role in global change, bringing about transparency in the global tax system.â€
Influencing government action
Following his talk with the Bishop, Savior expressed his reasons for why the tax justice tour in the UK was so important for raising international awareness.
â€œIâ€™m coming from a country that sees the concrete examples and consequences of tax dodging, so Iâ€™m happy to talk to a UK audience about my concerns.
â€œDeveloping African countries are hit harder than others, yet are less equipped to deal with the consequences. Here, we hope to get as many UK people interested and informed as possible to influence government action.â€
Tax dodging costs poor countries an estimated $160 billion a year. This is one-and-a-half-times the international aid budget, and deprives poor communities of money that should be funding development - paying for schools, hospitals, infrastructure and other vital services
Put simply, Daniel says: â€œFor every $10 given in aid internationally, $15 is lost in tax dodging.â€
The Bishop highlighted, however, how the problem remains one close to home.
â€œI hope this tour will raise great awareness about the inequitable, unfair tax injustice by huge companies to poor communities - Â£35 billion was avoided last year in tax, thatâ€™s almost as much as the government cuts this year!
â€œIf our government can raise awareness internationally, the momentum against tax dodgers can be increased, and money returned back to poor communities.â€
On tour for tax justice
Filled with flyers, posters, tv and iPad screens sharing the hard facts about the cost of tax dodging, visitors are invited on board the big red bus at every stop, to take a tour, explore the resources it has on offer and sign a petition to lobby the government on the issue.
They also have the opportunity to talk to people whoâ€™ve had first-hand experience of tax dodging like Savior.
Daniel said: â€œWeâ€™ve had a very positive reaction â€“ the first thing people say is â€˜wow, the bus is beautifulâ€™, then they go on board, see the figures, speak to our partners...â€
Tonight, the bus heads to London, where there will be a debate with Giles Fraser, the former Canon Chancellor of St Paulâ€™s Cathedral, and the bus will remain docked outside St Paulâ€™s tomorrow.
â€œWe wanted to try and get around as many of the big cathedrals as possible, and we also wanted to go to Brighton to try and lobby the Green MP Caroline Lucas, but the size of the bus made parking too problematic there,â€ Daniel added.
For further information on how to get involved in the fight against tax injustice, see > http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/taxbus