Saffron Walden, in Essex, is a medieval market town that, due to its Quaker heritage, has long been associated with peace and pacifism. The city now plans to invest £ 35 million in public money to develop a new manufacturing base for a global arms company.
According to the British newspaper The Independent, the Uttlesford district council will invest £ 35 million of taxpayers in a 56,000 square kilometer facility as part of a new property portfolio with the goal of generating future revenue.
Essex authority will finance the construction of the complex, located in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, and the defense company will rent it for more than 35 years, which declined to be publicly identified.
Opponents of the project point out that the company will be the North American manufacturer Moog, which recently hailed its new “state-of-the-art” Tewkesbury base, due to open in 2023.
Uttlesford residents have expressed horror about an agreement that will effectively take their city tax to finance a company that sells weapons of war around the world and that, on its website, prides itself on developing “one shot, one kill” technology.
According to the British newspaper, some point out that Moog, specialized in missiles and fighters, has already sold products to countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – two Middle East autocracies accused of massacring civilians in the war in Yemen.
The project, called “Investment Opportunity 12”, will make the authority use its sovereign rating status to lend £ 35 million at extremely low rates offered only to public agencies.
Then it will partner with Barberry Industrial and invest that money in the development of the Tewkesbury facility. After being completed in 2023, Moog will move to the site and pay the rent to the municipality under a 35-year lease.
The new facility – described as “a state-of-the-art aerospace factory and design facility” – already has Tewkesbury Borough Council. Construction is scheduled to start in the coming months.
Opponents launched a petition, demanding that the council – administered by the local group Residents For Uttlesford – cancel these plans.
“There are so many properties and businesses that we could invest in, so forming an effective partnership with an arms company that deals with some of the most abominable regimes in the world is nothing short of scandalous”Said Daniel Brett, a parish councilor and responsible for the petition. “The council has been doing its best to keep this secret, because it knows very well that people would be disgusted if the money were being used in this way. As a district, it would put blood on our hands – it’s as simple as that. “
In a place with such specific links with the Quaker movements – religious groups known for defending pacifism and simplicity – the move “was especially unresponsive,” added Brett.
Paul Fairhurst, Green Party leader on the Uttlesford District Council, is among those calling for the decision to be reconsidered. “It is totally inappropriate,” he said. “Public agencies that deal with people’s money need to obey a very high ethical standard and I don’t think anyone can argue that investing in this type of industry does that.”
The Greens and the local Lib Dem party had already submitted a motion for the council to immediately implement a new ethical investment policy.
The company is described by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade as the “93rd largest arms and military services company outside of China” in the world.
In response to the council’s plans, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said it was concerned. “CAAT believes that financial pressure, including divestment, can be an valuable tool to oppose harmful activities the arms industry, ”said a spokesman. “We urge any local authority that decides its investment policy to consider the detrimental impact of the arms trade, of which Moog participates, on global peace and human rights, and to avoid investing in it and disposing of existing participation in the arms industry ”.
Maria Campos, ZAP //