By Dan Heard
Sometimes, it’s easier to take things into account using numbers. For instance, there are 424 government foodbanks currently operating across the UK. 1,109,309 emergency one-day food packs were distributed for the financial year 2015/16, with 415,866 of these going to children. That figure is up by almost 100,000 since 2014/15. A bit hard to swallow those figures? Well, the news that emerged this week concerning another action taken by the government will no doubt have had you choking on your Corn Flakes. You know, if you were fortunate to have Corn Flakes, or food in general.
A sovereign grant has been awarded to the Queen, following an agreement between Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond to fund a ten-year refurbishment of Buckingham Palace, which, as has been reported, is in dire need of “essential” and even “urgent” repairs. Except this extensive set of repairs will cost £389 million. Yes, that’s £389 million. I’ll put that into further context for you. For that kind of money, you could pick up a work of art by one of the old masters, a Rembrandt for example, which sell normally at auction for between £15 and £20 million each. Or a luxury penthouse apartment in Mayfair, the one with panoramic views of the capital, which would set you back again, around £15 million.
Then there’s your very own Caribbean island, a measly £20 million. How about a super yacht like the one Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich owns? £70 million. A top of the range Bugatti Veyron L’Or Blanc, the fastest production car in the world? A drop in the ocean at a mere £1.5 million. And even if you were to buy all of these things, you still wouldn’t even have spent half of what the Windsors will be receiving for the next decade to do up their pad. This amount is also, staggeringly, more than six times the annual income of some of the poorest countries in the world. That’s right, entire countries don’t make in a year what our government can afford to hand out to monarchs. 884 million people worldwide don’t have clean drinking water, which can cost as little as £15 (not £15 million) to treat in some areas.
How can this kind of funding possibly be justified then? Well, Forbes revealed last year that Her Majesty has a personal fortune of around £340 million, which includes her estates at Sandringham and Balmoral. So asking her to pay for even some of the repairs would clearly be a despicable thing to ask of a poor old lady. It’s not as if her and her family have any other source of income. I mean, tourism alone to the Palace generates £500 million annually, meaning a year’s takings for Liz and co. would effectively be enough to spare the taxpayer. This announcement comes the same week that Mr Hammond had to come out and defend his Autumn Statement, in which he revealed that the UK’s deficit would “no longer” be cleared by 2020, on top of which, due to the result of the Independence Referendum, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that the government will have to borrow £122 billion more than what was predicted pre-Brexit.
Amongst the doom and gloom that is now forecast though, Mr Hammond did announce that Wales would receive £400 million over the next five years, to be spent on “infrastructure”. To put things into perspective, a country within the UK will receive slightly more to spend in key areas over five years what one family will in 10 for repairs. For even more perspective, a proposed project to build a critical care hospital in Gwent in North Wales is estimated to cost £350 million alone. There are also 157 foodbanks operating in Wales. There were 16 between 1998 and 2010. Aren’t numbers great?