Debate: Was the Queen’s Jubilee a waste of money?

YES by

Durham, like the rest of the UK, seems to have been overcome with Jubilee fever. The Union Jack adorns everything from cheddar cheese packaging to paper plates and there has been a marked increase of Facebook statuses declaring a love for all things royal.

The majority of us probably made the most of the long bank holiday weekend and a nationwide holiday which practically encouraged drinking lots of Pimm’s, an activity which will always have my whole-hearted support.

However, after the feel-good haze of boats and bunting has dissipated, was the Diamond Jubilee – while undeniably a pleasant weekend off – money well-spent? On the contrary, it is becoming increasingly evident that the enormous expense of the Jubilee will cost the taxpayer more than the government is currently willing to let on.

While we struggle through a double-dip recession, the drawn-out proceedings could easily have been curtailed to celebrate the Jubilee in a more modest but nonetheless positive manner. It is estimated that the extra bank holiday will cost the economy an approximate £1.2billion, a large price to pay for weekend of unerring patriotism.  Indeed, if the Jubilee celebrations had been more restrained it would have allowed taxpayers’ money to be free for more valuable issues such as the creation of jobs.

In addition, the opportunity of the Jubilee to create employment was largely missed and the celebrations have even been accused of exploiting cheap labour. This comes as the story emerges that unpaid workers who were bussed into London under the government’s Work Programme were left stranded and forced to sleep under London Bridge in the early hours of Sunday. As part of the programme these workers must undertake work placements to maintain their benefits, yet instead of using money to provide them with paid work, the government has instead spent on excessive pageantry and parades.

I would not want to mislead people in giving the impression that the Jubilee celebrations were funded solely from the taxpayers’ pockets. Indeed, an approximate £10.5million budget for the celebrations came directly from both individual and corporate sponsors and the artists who played in the Jubilee concert played for free.

However, this £10.5million is but a small percentage of the overall costs of the Diamond Jubilee; there were many extra costs about which the government is conveniently remaining very tight-lipped. The vast underlying costs certainly darken an initial impression of the Jubilee as an event which relied on the generosity of the affluent.

The issue of affluent sponsorship of the Jubilee highlights the fact that if these sponsors had not spent their money on the Jubilee, they could have given financial backing to much more worthwhile and sustainable causes.

Government cuts were arguable one of the reasons for last summer’s rioting and with the memory of this still fresh in our minds, it is more justifiable for such sponsors to direct their money to the aid businesses which suffered at the hands of rioters or to prevent this happening again.

In the north London borough of Haringey, the youth services budget was cut by 75% after the council’s budget was slashed by £41million. It is undeniable that the £10.5million sponsorship could be put to good use in the restoration of at least some of these youth services, and this is just one example of how this money could be injected back into society.

Separate to the private sponsorship, the costs of the Jubilee quickly escalate when practical matters are considered. The Greater London Authority budgeted £2million for outside screens, road closures, signage and other expenses and while towards this it will provide £100,000, the rest goes to the Department for Media, Culture and Sport.

In addition to practical issues, the Royal household was given an extra £1million to cover the increased volume of administration and correspondence from the Jubilee, gained from taxpayers via the Sovereign Grant. It is worth noting that this amount is more than double the contribution made for the Golden Jubilee in 2002, which by comparison was a much smaller £450,000.

We can also take the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as a further example of the wasting of taxpayers’ money in the Jubilee. The MoD made a big contribution to the proceedings through the provision of ships for the river flotilla, the RAF fly over and the 1,000 strong personnel in the processions. What is most telling about the contribution of the military is that they refused to disclose any cost estimates for their participation.

At a time when the armed forces have increasingly diminished resources at their disposal, their obligation to pump what little they have into the Jubilee is a veritable waste. Indeed, charities such as Help for Heroes exist because the government cannot provide the support and resources that military personnel require for recovery. It is therefore astonishing that instead of sending financial support in this direction, the government has used excessive amounts of money for a few days of pageantry. If the pomp and ceremony had been scaled down the MoD could have used their fiscal resources for much more worthy causes such as rehabilitation and better job security for serving members of the forces.

With all these factors considered, it becomes increasingly apparent that the Jubilee celebrations wasted an inordinate amount of money that could have been put to much better use. With the public still caught up in patriotic fervour at present there are doubtless many who might disagree. However, give it a few months and once Britain has emerged from the euphoric haze of the Jubilee and Olympics, the state of our bank balance will tell a very different story.

NO by Catherine Malpass

The Diamond Jubilee celebrations have become a contentious talking point, particularly in the light of the recent extra bank holiday. This allowed some Britons to enjoy a long weekend, spend some time with their friends and family, and watch the flotilla and live concert inLondon. However, amongst such jovialities, there is always cynicism close by – celebration of national pride has come under scrutiny in the current economic climate.

Indeed, recent times have been tough. With more people out of work, spending power reduced by lower wages and inflation creeping above the government target, everyone has had to tighten their belts. However, some estimates surrounding the economic effects of the Diamond Jubilee have been blown out of all proportion. They would have us believe that the monarchy are wholly responsible for plunging us deeper into inescapable economic downturn, just so they can have a bit of a jig to Paul McCartney outside Buckingham Palace.

This is clearly not the case. Admittedly, some businesses may suffer at the loss of a working day, as workers may feel the pinch at the loss of a day’s pay. However, most of this money can and will be made up in the subsequent days. A service needed over the bank holiday will still be needed after it; hours not worked over the holiday can be worked at a later date.

Moreover, whilst some sectors may lose business at the hands of the extra bank holiday, some sectors, particularly that of retail, will pick this back up. Let us take the example of the Royal Wedding. It is estimated that this celebration boosted retail sales by around £515-620 billion. Some predictions have suggested that the Jubilee will follow a similar trend, in which the loss of output from the workplace will be offset by consumer spending figures.

Think food, alcohol and excess amounts of bunting – the conflation for any Jubilee party – and this consumerism is apparent. The Diamond Jubilee has given Britons a real reason to spend all in the name of patriotism or merely to copy Kate’s latest fashion trend.

Evaluating the Jubilee solely in terms of economical factors, and as a waste of money, is crucially missing the social point. Yes, the economy is in a bad way at the moment, however, ignoring a traditional day of national pride and celebration could have been detrimental.

In no way would either revoking celebrations or curtailing them instil confidence in the British public that their country has some form of economic assurance and control. An estimated six million people sat down to The Big Lunch on 3 June, that’s at least six million people who still have faith in their country during these difficult times. Even for those who don’t support the monarchy, the long weekend has at least given some people the time to spend with those who matter to them and to recuperate.

Whilst the Jubilee beacons have been lit all over the world, there is also the resonance of the current Olympic torch relay. Both events have meant that this year has been excellent PR forBritain. This subsequently has a positive impact on tourism and greater confidence in British business. Hotel bookings soared from 2-5 June in and aroundLondondue to the Jubilee, and estimates predicted that £10 billion was injected into the economy as a result.

Jubilee celebrations have also extended across the Commonwealth. This nationwide and worldwide publicity can only benefit the British economy and reputation. The Jubilee spectacles have at least been worthwhile in their positive and unified portrayal of Britain as a nation.

Even for those who are not supporters of the monarchy, cast your mind back to last summer. Thousands of Britons took to the streets to riot, predominantly to convey their distress amongst mass unemployment. The outcome however seemed futile. An estimated £100 million bill was placed on the tax payer. This makes any spending on the sixty year anniversary celebrations seem much more justifiable.

In the Jubilee spectacles, money was spent to unite the British public under a positive wave, not in an attempt to repair and redeem the destruction and discontent that placed added strain on the UK economy during the riots.

Current times are tough, yet they have also been for the Royal Family. They were all seen putting on brave faces when Prince Philip was rushed into hospital with a bladder infection on 4 June. Similarly to the British public in times of economic suffering, they are the example that this should not deter these acts of patriotism.Britainwas right to unite under the Jubilee celebrations and indeed under the current economic climate there seems a proverbial message – the show must still go on and indeed it did.

Overall, the effects of the Jubilee weekend upon the economy are still very much unknown. Predictions have been at best tentative and loss in some sectors could mean gain in others. The economy is certainly a delicate entity during these times, however, sacrificing a day of national pride at the expense of something so unpredictable would have been a great shame. It is these spectacles that will keep Britain strong through these uncertain economic times.

One thought on “Debate: Was the Queen’s Jubilee a waste of money?

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