The BBC continues to platform notorious tax dodgers for the Children in Need event. The event which is supposed to be a means to raise funds for disadvantaged children around the country is now being used by tax dodgers to raise their public profile. Celebrities including Gary Barlow and Lewis Hamilton have featured in the Children in Need broadcast; both of whom have a history of tax avoidance. During their appearance on the show, they – like all celebrities that feature – appeal to the public to donate to the charity. This undoubtedly creates the appearance of caring about the needs of children, but in private both have taken actions which contradicts this appearance of ‘giving a shit’.
Gary Barlow and Lewis Hamilton have both avoided taxes; denying the public purse of the funding it desperately needs. The amount they avoided is speculated to be in the millions. It should be noted; the practice of tax avoidance is legal. Whether the practice is moral, is an entirely different question. If the British public were to be asked: is it moral for celebrities to avoid paying taxes in a time of widespread poverty? Any decent member of the public would be against the practice. The tax they avoided could have been used to support disadvantaged children around the country, but they prioritised adding to their millions. Their appeal to the public on behalf of Children in Need, as a result, is received as hypocritical and insincere.
Child poverty in Britain is a major issue. It is amplified by austerity and tax avoidance. The Conservative government has cut the funding of local authorities by billions. The money it no longer spends on children is given to rich corporations through tax cuts: direct tax cuts like the reduction of corporation tax, and indirect ones like tax loophole which the wealthy can use to avoid paying their fair share.
Children in Need and theaction they take to support children is commendable. However, the money theyraise is nowhere near enough fill the funding gap left by the government forchildren services. Cuts to local authorities are in the billions. TheIndependent reported government has cut funding for children services by nearly£1 billion over six years. Children in Need raised £50 million in 2018. This isonly a small fraction of the money needed to give children adequate support. Alot of this money will be spent on administration and will not reach the peoplewho actually need it. Children in Need and their work is admirable, but in thegrand scheme, it will likely prove futile.
The best means to help childrenare through progressive taxation, closing tax loopholes, and putting an end tothe Conservative party’s unnecessary austerity. Children should receive thesupport they need, from the institution which should be the source of thatsupport: the government. Leaving them at mercy of charity is unlikely to bringabout long-lasting results.
Gary Barlow, Lewis Hamilton, and all other, tax avoiding, lip service providing celebrities – if they truly care about the needs of children, they would pay back any tax they avoided. They can also campaign with many groups around the country that aim to organise the population to pressure government to stop austerity, to stop tax cuts, to rebuild our collapsing public services. Their celebrity status will have a massive impact on gathering support. However, the likelihood of that happening is close to zero. Their inaction should tell the public all they need to know about their character and basic motivations.