GA Minutes – 7pm Thursday 1st December 2011

 

Location: Tent City University (moved due to Christian pray-in flash mob, a national event timed for 7.15pm-8.15pm)

Event: Evening General Assembly of Occupy LSX

Date: Thursday 1st December 2011

Facilitator: Phil

Minutes: John

Started: 7.55pm

Weather: Raining

Facilitator: Welcome to the General Assembly. Thanks to Tent City University for allowing us to use this space.

Agenda will be announcements about Youth Movement and Finance group, then there will be a discussion about banking.

There is no co-facilitator, so please be respectful for the way consensus works. Explains consensus…

Now we will have working group feedback…

Clarification: What is a working group?

Facilitator: When there is a need, a working group can be set up to address it.

Internal communications: Trying to improve communication between working groups. Suggest all groups have an email address. If you don’t have an email address for a working group, then please create one. Please let Vica know what the email address is. There is also a forum (occupylondon.info).

Library: Has a proposal about putting library on palettes with MDF on top, so it doesn’t get damp.

Health and Safety: it’s a tough thing to do. Health and Safety has been working hard, following Amsterdam, to separate political stuff from amenities. Was said that we would have to suspend ourselves. Health and Safety is currently suspended. Could carry on if the camp was rebuilt like they did in Amsterdam. We [health and safety people] are all still here, wet weather cables will remain, generator cages etc.

Economics: There’s a lot to say. We have twice weekly meetings (Mon, Fri 5pm). Sub-groups for housing, banking, education, etc. Have an initial statement, copies have been handed out. On 6th, education sub-group will have walk about. There is a information about it in the Info tent.

Occupied Times: Came out with 6th edition yesterday. [applause]. Will be having a break for a week. Will be looking to restructure and look for alternative finance. Expect 20 page edition every two weeks.

Corporations: Next meeting 5pm tomorrow in Ye Olde London pub. Meetings not just for enclave of educated people, it’s for all types of people.

Legal: We can win on the 19th December. They are arguing that nobody has ever slept rough in grounds of St Paul’s. Their injunction would prevent people sleeping in the grounds of St Paul’s for ever. Please make a witness statement in support of the camp.

Process: There are new forms for submitting

Environment: Climate justice day on Saturday. Teach outs starting from 10.30am. Also Occupy Foreshore. [insert details]

Youth Movement: Having afternoon discussion on Sunday, to generate a memorandum about the concerns facing the global youth. Memorandum will be voted on during the Youth Assembly in the evening. Also please help Youth Movement to get more involved in the running of the camp.

Church Liaison: There will be a proposal on Saturday:

  • we propose that the protest has a limited presence with an information test outside the cathedral
  • we propose that the General Assembly continues to meet on the steps of St Paul’s at regular intervals
  • we will also look at ways of making the protest visible inside the church through, for example, a symbolic tent, visual art, and acts of worship
  • we would like to extend an invitation for representatives of the protest to work creatively with both the Cathedral Forum and the St Paul’s Institute to further public debate
  • we recognise the importance of public space in the City
  • building on existing initiatives like, for example, Ken Costa’s initiative and the work of the St Paul’s Institute, we are committed to the dialogue between politicians and the protest to discuss pathways to effective legislation through Parliament to address the causes of some of the injustices

This will be discussed further on Saturday.

Faciliator: Wow! When you think about the situation two weeks into being here, that’s quite a turn around from the church.

Now we’ll have a summary of the changes to the finance group. There has been a statement prepared, which will be read out now.

Finance: Background, certain rumours and accusations levelled at members of finance group, which has become difficult to deal with. Had an emergency finance meeting today. Interim proposals: freeze on spending for two days so new procedures can be worked out. In meantime £150 will be allocated to kitchen, any further interim payments will be decided by the interim finance group. All kitchens will be asked to give an idea of how many people they are feeding, so finance group can work out what is essential. Also making a call out to all people at General Assembly to go out skipping asking for donations of money and food. Also asking online people to do this. That we pay debt to portaloos (£200) and then only pay for one portaloo to be pumped. If anybody has an invoice which has been agreed to be paid previous to Tuesday, see Helen, we need an idea of how much there is. It’s all about greater transparency and accountability: public accounts, that what we want. Meeting at Tate attended by 16 people plus existing members of finance group. It was advertised in lots of places (General Assembly, Info tent, online). All people expressed full confidence in finance people to date. We would like lunchtime General Assembly tomorrow to be all about finance.

Need to change processes, and will brainstorm at 1pm General Assembly tomorrow.

Facilitator: Now we will have clarifications…

Thomas: What is skipping?

Finance: Skipping is food that would otherwise go to waste. There is a list of places that are happy to give us their unused food.

Comment: Normal people do a weeks shop. But perhaps we can also help ourselves.

Clarification: How much money is there?

Facilitator: About £14,000 (10k in bank account, and 4k cash in a safe).

Clarification: We rushed into bank account, but some people haven’t been able to make a donation.

Clarification: I have been informed by my accountant that the account is illegal. You can’t take a donation and put the money into somebody else’s account. I made some other suggestions which weren’t accepted. If there is money available, we need to get it to the kitchen.

Comment: Have a donation of food, does anybody have a van?

Facilitator: Let’s carry on this discussion at the General Assembly tomorrow.

Comment: We need to have ethical food.

Facilitator: Let’s carry on this discussion at the General Assembly tomorrow.

Now we will have the banking discussion.

Banking: We discussed it twice, there were some proposals. [reads proposals]

There proposals are just problems: if you think these aren’t problems then please object, otherwise if you think these are problems that we need to investigate further, please give your consent.

Proposal 1 (separation of retail and investment banking)

Clarification: What is it?

Comment: It makes banking safer. The point is to prevent the speculators speculating with the savings of normal people, so that when the speculator goes bust, then the normal people don’t loose their savings.

Comment: There is the Vicker’s report about how to do this.

Clarification: Does this mean people can still make money from money?

Clarification: Can we say that the government’s proposals are small steps, can we add that to the statement?

Comment: Investors want to invest because they can make money. If they are going to be taxed, they won’t invest.

Facilitator: Goes for consensus. Any objections?

Comment: Maybe this is tinkering? but it is good.

Facilitator: Is that an objection? No… We have consensus. On to the next proposal….

Banking: Proposal for Tobin (financial transaction) tax.

Clarification: Some of these proposals need to fleshed out. Need to address issue of money creation. Power to create money is in private hands, and should not be. We need to get down to core problems.

Clarification: Think Robin Hood tax is a fantastic idea. How can it be implemented in off-shore banking? Lots of people avoid tax. How are you going to tax these people?

Clarification: Suggest we put this as item 8. It is the most contentious of all the proposals here. There are good and bad ways of doing it. Need clarification on whether this is a tax on foreign exchange, whether tax is collected by international agency or existing agencies? I’m in favour of one particular implementation, but be careful of giving broad brush to it.

Comment: Difficult to call for it unless we know whether it is local, national, or global. Europe is just proposing to have a European tax.

Comment: Europe Union is clear about its intentions: it’s about financial stability and money will go to EU. Looking to put money into very undemocratic organisation. There is a world of confusion in the European proposals.

Comment: Disagree with taxation. Opposed to tax that is not a national tax. Disagree with international tax. Do research and make up your mind. Who is behind these taxes?

Comment: I work in banking sector, and know a bit about financial transaction tax. It is unclear how it will operate, and where the money will go. But we do need to control the multiplication of the same product. Lots things that are being exchanged are real goods. They are simply transactions, it doesn’t mean we can’t tax them, but we need to think about what it really means to say, “Occupy supports financial transactions”.

Comment: This relates to tax havens, we need to stop people moving money overseas. We need to rebuild the governement’s power to collect tax.

Comment: Not simply revenue raising, but it is to dampen speculation on transactions. Need to discuss it carefully, but we do need to say something. And we would only get a sound bite anyway.

Facilitator: Let’s come back to that at the end. On to “land value tax”.

Who knows what land value tax is all about?

Comment: Land value tax is tax on value that is created by community due to scarcity of that particular thing, could be land radio spectrum. Idea is to return value to community.

Comment: the idea of land value tax is to split value of building from value of land. The value of the land is created by what is around the building, which is created by the community. Good properties: you can’t hide land. Would replace income tax, and there would just be one tax so labour and capital would be cheaper. Proposed rate is 6% of value of the land. Land value tax is a very subtle, very interesting thing. But unless you understand it, don’t just stick your hand up and say “I want one”.

Comment: It’s a good thing, we were talking about it for 2 hours yesterday. But there are complications.

Comment: Expensive buildings are being bought and sold without paying stamp duty. They just sell the offshore company.

Comment: Potentially very complicated because land ownership is often not known. One reason for it is to identify the ownership.

Comment: There is an economics sub-group which is discussing this.

Comment: Has to be a national administrative tax for whole of Great Britain.

Comment: Rich can always afford to pay for these things.

Comment: Might exclude people from cities.

Comment: Land value tax cannot be passed on to tenants.

Comment: In a sense [explains something about the Queen] we are all tenants.

Facilitator: Goes for consensus. Objections? No. Consensus achieved.

On to next proposal.

Banking: Proposal to ban unsafe derivatives. An example of a safe derivative is a forward contract, where you agree in advance to sell your sheep at a future date at a particular price, it’s a very old practice. An example of unsafe derivatives is the (CDOs) Collateralized Debt Obligations, each of which involves perhaps 1000 Mortgage Backed Securities (MBSs), each of which involves perhaps 1000 actual mortgages, each of which involves perhaps 1000 pieces of paper. It isn’t safe because to understand the CDO you need to read 1000,000,000 pieces of paper, but nobody does that so they don’t really understand what the risks are. There are loads of extremely complicated derivatives which have risks that nobody really understands.

Comment: I understand them all.

Comment: Lots of these things sound great but it would be good to have some in depth sessions about each thing. In danger of making uninformed decisions.

Comment: We are already having such discussions in TCU.

Comment: It’s quite simple, there is argument where the dividing line goes exactly. But banning unsafe derivatives is almost a tautology.

Facilitator: Goes for consensus. Any objections? Yes.

Comment: We don’t understand these.

Comment: Neither do most people: that’s the problem. We are trying to reach consensus that this is a problem we should investigate further.

Facilitator: Goes for consensus. Any objections? No. There is consensus. Onto eliminating tax havens.

Banking: We’ve already got consensus on this twice, so there’s not much to be discussed.

Comment: This is one of the big ones, the core of the rot. The Boston Consulting group said $7.8tn (other figures are about $20tn). Strongly suggest we put this to the fore.

Clarification: What is meant by “eliminate”?

Response: Doesn’t mean we bomb Guersey, but we could pull back from position we have got into over last few years.

Facilitator: Goes for consensus. Any objections? No. We have consensus.

On to investigation and regulation of credit rating agencies.

Comment: States in EU are already starting to do this in a weak way. Problem is that agencies make money from people who they give ratings to. So something needs to be done.

Facilitator: Clarifications and questions…

Clarification: Who is going to be doing the regulation?

Response: Difficult question, because you get revolving doors and corruption.

Facilitator: Goes for consensus. Any objections? No

We have consensus.

On to proposal 7. Elect head of Bank of England democratically.

Banking: Be a little bit cautious. Maybe we need to cautious about this. Don’t want somebody who is good at winning elections but not at economics. Needs to be opened up, but also need the right skills.

Comment: There seems to be a point missing. Maybe we should be questioning the power of non-democratic organisations like IMF. A new proposal.

Comment: Einstein said the only thing you will never understand is income tax.

Comment: Need to think about accountability and independence.

Comment: Issue of private banks being able to create vast amounts of money is far more important than this.

Comment: Maybe this is a red herring. We democratically elect the government, who appoint the Head of Bank of England.

Comment: Could be rephrased: bring Bank of England under democratic control.

Comment: Propose amendment to have democratically elected appointments board.

Comment: Could we put in something about transparency?

Comment: There are all sorts of changes which are desirable, but suggest we deal with these another time. Suggest we amend to, “bring Bank of England under democratic control”.

Facilitator: We have amended proposal to “bring Bank of England under democratic control”. Do we have consensus? Any objections? No. We have consensus.

On to credit unions…

Banking: It’s about making financial institutions that are providing public services.

Clarification: What would stop these credit unions from speculating with our money?

Response: [couldn’t hear]

Clarification: [couldn’t hear]

Comment: Seems to assume… [couldn’t hear]

Comment: The way a credit union works: everybody puts their money in, and they cannot gamble with the money. So when you ask for your money, they have it. They aren’t going to artificially create money. I belong to a couple of credit unions. They would rather not charge fees that commercial banks charges. They tend to be more honest and interested to help you.

Comment: Difference between credit unions and ethical banks: ethical banks still speculate but they do it ethically.

Comment: Parliamentary group: regulatory changes approved 8th November 2011. Why don’t we get somebody from the government to come and tell us about their plans, and we can challenge them?

Comment: The reason we need to protect them is because the original ones got bought out and then went belly-up. Need to develop more alternatives to big banks.

Comment: We are avoiding the main issue – we keep talking about big banks – we need to break up the big banks, that have been unified too much.

Comment: We could have state owned banks.

Comment: Why have banks? We could just barter.

Comment: Would like to propose “too big to fail” problem.

Facilitator: Let’s test for consensus. Do we have consensus? Any objections.

Comment: We don’t understand money. Not happy with whole process. It’s confusing and manipulative.

Facilitator: Are you happy to stand aside? Yes. We have consensus. Back to Tobin tax…

Comment: Let’s figure the proposal out a bit more.

Facilitator: Is there consensus for coming back to Tobin Tax? Any objections? No.

Comment: There are at least three proposals, for international, national or local transaction tax. So let’s come back with more refined proposals.

Comment: New proposal: for citizens income. [insert written text]

Facilitator: On to shout outs.

Shoutout: [insert written note]

Shoutout: Birthday of St Pauls’ Cathdral [insert written note]

Shoutout: [insert written note]

Ended: 10.10pm

 

 
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