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Taxpayers question how much Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee is costing—and if there’s a benefit

June 4, 2022, 9:00 AM UTC

As thousands of Brits celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee in the United Kingdom, some can’t help but wonder how much the festivities are costing them.

After 70 years of service, the queen is the first British monarch to reach that milestone, and the U.K. is marking the occasion with four days of public festivities.

The long weekend kicked off Thursday with a military parade of more than 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses, and 400 musicians to honor the queen’s birthday. Other festivities include a cathedral service Friday and a party at Buckingham Palace on Saturday. The extravagance will culminate Sunday in a £15 million pageant carnival complete with celebrity performers. 

In 2021, both Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, which is responsible for hosting the jubilee, said the government would set aside £28 million for its celebratory events. That figure was rep​​eated again in a House of Commons committee report published in March.

The £28 million cost has seen some criticism from U.K. taxpayers, who say it is hefty for a country whose economy is getting hit by the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the rising cost of living crisis. 

But that sum does not distinguish between the amount funded by partner organizations and paid for by taxpayer dollars. For example, the £15 million “People’s Pageant” finale was financed with independent fundraising and will be “at no cost to the taxpayer,” according to the DCMS. More than £22 million in national lottery funding will also be used to fund community celebrations, per the platinum jubilee website.

The DCMS did not respond to a request for comment on the criticisms or with an updated cost prediction.

Still, the jubilee weekend will rake in profits, especially for the retail, hospitality, and tourism sectors, with more than 16,000 street parties set to take place. The holiday could draw as many as 2.6 million domestic and international tourists to the capital, according to the New West End Company.  

Last week, released a report predicting celebrants will spend £3.47 billion in retail stores—£2.25 billion of that on food and beverages—and an additional £2.9 billion at pubs, restaurants, and experiences. The Centre for Retail Research expects consumers to splurge over £400 million; £281.5 million of that would go to souvenirs, memorabilia, and gifts. And VisitBritain reported the jubilee could bring a much-needed  £1.2 billion boost to the economy. 

Despite these optimistic forecasts, the DCMS suggested the weekend might not bring in enough revenue to outweigh the amount spent. The £28 million cost does not account for the impact of a one-off extra bank holiday arranged on Friday. 

The department estimated a £2.39 billion loss—around 0.09% of U.K. GDP in 2020—from the bank holiday caused by business closures, according to its August 2021 impact assessment. The assessment for the queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012 predicted a loss of £1.2 billion or £1.5 billion adjusted for inflation to the economy.

“The fall we predict in GDP takes into account both the output lost from the extra bank holiday, but also the output that might be gained in certain sectors like hospitality and tourism,” the assessment said of its calculations for the platinum jubilee’s impact on GDP.

The assessment looked at how GDP performed after past jubilees, acknowledging that “prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest monthly decreases in GDP were in the months of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 (-2.2%) and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 (-1.5%).”

Yet the department noted that in the months after the golden and diamond jubilee, the GDP growth rate returned to 1.55% and 1.85%, respectively. It expected to see a similar “bounce-back” effect in the next quarter after the celebratory weekend. 

“If the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend is considered within only one month or quarter, then there is likely to be a sharp negative impact on output, as the loss in output is likely to exceed the increase in spending for that day,” the department cautioned. 

“However, if the impact of the bank holiday is measured over a longer period of time, then the net effect may counteract some of this decrease,” it added. 

Even without the impact assessment’s estimated £2.39 billion loss, the platinum jubilee nears the cost of other major British royal events. Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding cost a reported £30 million, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding racked up a £32 million bill, according to Express. 

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