Reminding the council to stop banking with Barclays – in song

When we discovered that Oxford City Council, in spite of having declared a climate emergency, continues to bank with Barclays – Europe’s biggest funder of fossil fuels – we decided to take action.

Last autumn, rebels marched to Oxford Town Hall and handed over a letter asking the Council to move its account. In response, the Council laughably claimed that Barclays was the ‘most ethical’ of the banks who had tendered from the account. Not good enough, we decided, especially now that at least one competitor in the Local Authorities banking market (Lloyds) has since committed to ending new fossil fuel investment.

So, local rebel Jenny Stanton put forward a formal question to the City Council, which she then delivered in person at their meeting on 30th January. She requested that they put their account out to tender with the requirement of no direct investment in fossil fuels, and to let Barclays know that the reason for retendering their account is the bank’s extensive funding of fossil fuels.

Sadly, the councillor who replied merely repeated the Council’s claim that Barclays scored joint highest among tendering banks in relation to social and ethical policies and insisted that the Council engages with Barclays on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) matters.

So, when the Lord Mayor attempted to move on to the next agenda item, several rebels in the gallery unfolded a familiar banner, and burst into singing; “We’re here to say, don’t bank with Barclays. Find a better bank and do it today.”

The Lord Mayor repeatedly asked us to stop, with a fervor better directed toward unfulfilled emergency declarations. We left on our own terms, still singing, and to applause from many of the councillors. On our way we met two security guards approaching from the other direction, presumably en route to throw us out.

Fortunately our action garnered an instant response from councillor Anna Railton, now cabinet member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice, who is keen to move the Council’s account from Barclays and asked us for help researching alternatives. Unfortunately, it is true that not many banks offer accounts to local councils – and none of them are really ethical – but we hope we can persuade them there is a better option than Europe’s worst. In the meantime, we will be requesting the Council pressures Barclays to follow other big banks in moving away from fossil fuels.

Our action was covered by Oxford Mail.

Written by Jo Gill and Hazel Dawe, edited by Tyson Jones, photos by Feng.