At its meeting on 13 October 2022, the Council had referred the following Notice of Motion of Councillor J Morley to the Executive.
“This Council notes that:
1. The pressure on organisations to pay their fair share of tax has never been stronger.
2. Polling from the Institute for Business Ethics finds that “corporate tax avoidance” has, since 2013, been the clear number one concern of the British public when it comes to business conduct.
3. Two thirds of people (66%) believe the Government and local councils should at least consider a company’s ethics and how they pay their tax, as well as value for money and quality of service provided, when awarding contracts to companies.
4. Around 17.5% of public contracts in the UK have been won by companies with links to tax havens.
5. It has been conservatively estimated that losses from multinational profit-shifting (just one form of tax avoidance) could be costing the UK some £17 billion per annum in lost corporation tax revenues.
6. The Fair Tax Mark offers a means for business to demonstrate good tax conduct, and has been secured by a wide range of businesses across the UK, including FTSE-listed PLCs, co-operatives, social enterprises and large private businesses.
This Council believes that:
1. Paying tax is often presented as a burden, but it should not be.
2. Tax enables us to provide services from education, health and social care, to flood defence, roads, policing and defence. It also helps to counter financial inequalities and rebalance distorted economies.
3. As recipients of significant public funding, local authorities should take the lead in the promotion of exemplary tax conduct; be that by ensuring contractors are paying their proper share of tax, or by refusing to go along with offshore tax dodging when buying land and property.
4. Where councils hold substantive stakes in private enterprises, influence should be wielded to ensure that such businesses are exemplars of tax transparency and tax avoidance is shunned.
5. More action is needed, however, as current and proposed new UK procurement law significantly restricts councils’ ability to either penalise poor tax conduct (as exclusion grounds are rarely triggered) or reward good tax conduct, when buying goods or services.
6. UK cities, counties and towns can and should stand up for responsible tax conduct - doing what they can within existing frameworks and pledging to do more given the opportunity, as active supporters of international tax justice.
The Council recognises the importance of delivering the Council’s Key Priorities for the residents of Woking whilst acting within the confines of the law and balancing the budget. With this is mind, the Council resolves to:
1. Support the Councils for Fair Tax Declaration.
2. This commits the Council to promoting responsible tax conduct through:
• Leading by example and demonstrating good practice in our tax conduct, right across the Council’s activities.
• Ensure IR35 is implemented robustly and contract workers pay a fair share of employment taxes.
• Discouraging the use of offshore vehicles for the purchase of land and property, especially where this leads to reduced payments of stamp duty.
• Undertaking appropriate due diligence to ensure that not-for-profit structures are not being used inappropriately by suppliers as an artificial device to reduce the payment of tax and if necessary take appropriate action within the confines of the procurement regime.
• Seeking clarity, when appropriate, on the ultimate beneficial ownership of major suppliers UK and overseas and their consolidated profit and loss position, given
• lack of clarity could be strong indicators of poor financial probity and weak financial standing.
3. Promote Fair Tax Mark certification especially for any business in which we have a significant stake and where corporation tax is due.
4. Support Fair Tax Week events in the area, and celebrate the tax contribution made by responsible businesses are proud to promote responsible tax conduct and pay their fair share of corporation tax. .
5. Support calls for urgent reform of UK procurement law to enable local authorities to better penalise poor tax conduct and reward good tax conduct through their procurement policies.”
The Leader of the Council introduced the recommendation of the Executive to support the motion, welcoming the measures for fair tax initiatives. The concerns of public in the fairness of tax were significant and any measures to reinforce the importance of fair tax, including across the Council’s contractors and suppliers, were to be supported. Councillor Morley spoke in support of his motion, noting that similar measures had been adopted by Councils across the Country in response to growing concerns over the fairness of tax.
The Council debated the proposals within the motion and reservations were expressed over the need for the motion, noting that many of the proposals were ones which the Council already had in place. However, it was felt that the motion would reassure residents and would affirm the Council’s support for fair tax.
Following the debate, the Leader of the Council summarised the key points from the discussion, advising that the motion would set a positive example and was in-line with the wishes of residents. The Members of the Council were asked to indicate whether they wished to support the motion, and the recommendation was carried by twenty votes in favour and no votes against. Seven Councillors abstained from the vote. The names of those voting were not recorded.
That the Motion be supported.