In the U.K., Parliament’s recent announcement of Big Ben renovations doubling to £61m was met with furore, with many criticizing the government’s use of such money for something considered so unnecessary. This is in spite of the fact that the NHS, schools and other public services that desperately need the money are still not receiving this kind of funding due to Theresa May’s claim that there is no “magic money tree.” As a result, the number of police officers are being slashed while the ones remaining are being made to work crippling hours, social services that help the community are being shut down one by one, NHS staff are struggling with the rising cost of living combined with the lack of a pay rise and the budget squeeze in schools means that there are fewer teachers managing the increasing class sizes. In short, these sectors are reaching breaking point.
The subsequent problems this has created for both workers and ordinary citizens (particularly the working class who are most affected by this) have been heard by the government. Yet despite consistent calls for them to increase funding for these sectors, different reasons are used to justify why the government cannot commit such large funding for those areas. Therefore, when news is announced that funding would be provided for supposedly “essential” renovations for Westminster or Buckingham Palace (as was approved earlier this year) or even the £1bn deal that the Conservatives agreed upon with the DUP in order for them to prop up the Tory government after this summer’s general election, it calls into question what, or more appropriately, who, the government is prioritizing when it comes to spending.
This situation is not exactly a new occurrence; a government looking out for numero uno and meanwhile, leaving ordinary folk to struggle with poor services and wages that do not reflect the effort of the job or the current cost of living. Regardless, it doesn’t mean that this should be accepted for much longer. It is one thing to tell people that there is no funding available for the things that are vital to the functioning of communities and the country, but when the government feeds the public this line and manages to find money for refurbishments that only benefit a small group and in no way impacts the masses, it becomes clear that the government does not care about helping the people, a majority of whom are working class. So long as it isn’t a hindrance to the wealthy elite, then it appears they are not interested — unless of course, a general election is on the horizon.
It is frustrating to watch such important services remain so under-funded. Staff are being stretched left, right and centre, are being made to take on extra roles that aren’t in their job contract or are being made to work extra hours. Unsurprisingly, this leads to an inadequate service being provided, which, for professions like nurses, can threaten the safety of patients in hospitals. By allowing the government to use taxpayers’ money to fund things that do not help the public without holding them accountable, we are letting them get away with ignoring working class citizens and their issues. In times like these, we cannot afford to let public money be spent on frivolous things like exorbitant renovations when we have public services falling apart in front of our very eyes. It is these services that are in great need of large funding, not an oversized clock.