£28 million on the jubilee is a kick in the guts during a cost of living crisis
This week, bunting is going up, lemon and amaretti trifles are being assembled, and street parties being organised in preparation for the celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – marking 70 years on the throne for Elizabeth II.
70 years of public service is an impressive stint. On a personal level, after a difficult couple of years, a bumper four-day weekend is very much appreciated. I am sure the lucky ones who also benefit from this bank holiday would agree.
I can’t help but wonder, though, if there are other ways we could mark the occasion. It’s lovely to pay tribute to one person’s years of service in a particularly unique job. But – especially in the wake of the pandemic – what about those whose other public servants whose work over the years has saved lives? Kept our infrastructure going? Taught our children, or nursed our loved ones?
Rishi Sunak is funnelling £28 million of public money towards the jubilee celebrations. Meanwhile, public sector workers face a real-terms pay cut. Average earnings in the public sector are lower than they were over a decade ago, in 2010 – and rising inflation means the value of wages will fall even further this year.
This will be disastrous for workers already facing a cost of living crisis. Earlier this month, it was revealed that hospitals had been forced to set up food banks for staff struggling to feed their families. Teachers, too, are turning to food banks and loans to make ends meet. With the energy price cap set to rise dramatically in October, and inflation soaring, things are only going to get harder for these workers.
It must feel like a kick in the guts, for many, to now see tens of millions lavished on a few days’ celebration for a head of state already propped up by taxpayers’ money. When it comes to public sector wages, and welfare for those who need it, the government are more than happy to wash their hands of responsibility and say that they’ve done all they can – but the millions spent on the jubilee should remind us that there is always money to be found if the will is there.
The partygate scandal which has unfolded over the last few months has been a stark reminder of the contrast between the sacrifices made by public sector workers – like nurses working long, gruelling shifts in the hardest possible circumstances, and then for many returning home to isolation – and the disregard for the rules shown by those in charge.
Indeed, one part of Sue Gray’s report into parties in Number 10 Downing Street that I found particularly shocking, if not surprising, was the culture of contempt that she highlighted in which Downing Street security staff and cleaners were routinely treated badly by ministers and their staff.
This feels like a consistent theme to me: parties for those at the top, while those at the bottom pay the price. This jubilee, £15 million is being spent on the Queen’s birthday parade alone – and it pains me to think about the difference that money could make to the lives of so many ordinary people trying desperately to make ends meet.
So, Rishi Sunak, how about it? This jubilee, let’s celebrate by making sure no teacher has to take out a loan to make it to payday, and no nurse has to use a food bank to feed their family. In honour of Her Majesty’s service to this country, let’s put the money back into our communities and our public services – and make it a country the Queen can be proud to be a part of.
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Image credit: UK House of Lords – Creative Commons