TEHRAN (Iran News) –The transition to a new king following Queen Elizabeth’s death in the UK is gearing up to be an expensive affair. Some reports have even put the expenses of the change at a massive £6 billion. In any case it comes during one of the worst economic crises facing Britons in modern history.
Following the death of the UK’s head of state, the public face many costs that must be incurred to meet the necessary changes of a new monarch. Queen Elizabeth’s record 70-year reign saw her portrait, signature or code on many things including banknotes, coins, stamps, postboxes, passports, government monuments, and buildings.
Under royal protocol, they all need to be changed in what looks to be a costly and lengthy process. The monarchy is already facing criticism for being out of touch with the public and absorbing public finances.
The Bank of England is struggling to control rising inflation which currently stands at 10.1 percent, the worst among the G7 group of nations and one of the worst in Europe. The country faces growing risks of falling into recession with economists warning this could happen as soon as the fourth quarter of this year. Likewise, the British pound has been dropping over the past months, hitting record lows against the dollar last week. The public is now heading into a winter of pain and uncertainly.
The financial crisis facing Brits is being spearheaded by record high-energy bills, which soared uncontrollably following the conflict in Ukraine. The World Energy Council, a nonprofit industry network, has warned that Brits must show “radical generosity” this winter to avoid the loss of lives due to the skyrocketing gas and electricity bills.
In a climate of uncertainty and growing economic pain facing tens of millions of people, the country has two new leaders under growing pressure. Both the new prime minister Liz Truss and the new king Charles will be looking to calm public sentiment. The pair met on Friday, followed by a meeting between King Charles and the cabinet on Saturday.
The results of a recent poll, which was described by opposition parties as a “national scandal”, found one in four British adults will not be turning on the heating at all this winter because of soaring energy prices; with another 70 percent saying they will turn on their heating less.
“Families and pensioners across the country are making heartbreaking decisions because the government has failed to save them,” said the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Christine Jardine.
“It is a national scandal that parents are having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children,” the spokesperson pointed out.
In the aftermath of a successful campaign by activists that called on consumers to completely boycott paying their energy bills, Truss signed off a £100 billion plan that she said will help the public pay their energy bills. The package was the first major political move by the new prime minister and came very shortly before the 96-year-old queen’s death.
The plan will see the government freezing energy bills at an average of £2,500 a year for two years from October 1.
That means everybody’s energy bills will be capped the same; both the poorest and the super-rich, small business or companies bringing in billions has been denounced.
The other problem is that the current price cap stands at £2,000 with a 54% increase since spring, which many people are already unable to pay. So setting the cap at £2,500 is hardly an effective freeze to help consumers.
Since Truss unveiled the huge energy package last week, she has come under pressure from charities, unions, opposition parties, and think tanks who argue it will do very little to help the poor.
Becca Lyon, the head of child poverty at Save the Children warned the prime minister’s plan would not stop many families reaching crisis point this winter. She says “how can it be right that multi-millionaires will get the same support as the most vulnerable families? If there is enough money to pay the energy bills of the rich and not ask energy giants to pay a penny more, surely there should be enough money to make sure no family has to choose between heating and eating this winter.”
James Taylor, the director of strategy for the disability charity Scope, said “disabled people often rely on higher energy use. It’s important to remember that this cap does not limit what you pay. For many disabled households their bills are still skyrocketing.”
The End Fuel Poverty Coalition said “while many households will breathe a sigh of relief, the prime minister offered no detail of additional support for the millions of households who will be left behind in fuel poverty this winter.”
Imran Hussain, the director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, warned this was a “big intervention with a big hole in it”. He says “we desperately need more targeted help through benefits for the low-paid and those who have lost their jobs or cannot work because of disability, illness or caring responsibilities.
Even with a freeze, energy bills will still be double what they were a year ago, the price of other essentials continues to soar and the true value of benefits has been cut.”
Max Mosley, an economist with think tank the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said the prime minister’s energy plan is “needlessly inefficient and expensive. Its untargeted nature makes the currently unfunded proposal wasteful, which will put pressure on public finances, and for an unknown amount of time. There are better options, including a variable price cap that would gone further in lowering the bills for the poorest and could have even paid for itself.”
In an assessment, the Resolution Foundation, another think tank, said the plan will not stop people facing a very tough winter. Torsten Bell, the chief executive at the Resolution Foundation, said “it is not well targeted at those on low and middle incomes, comes with a large price tag.
Liz Truss is asking future taxpayers to pick up a large and very uncertain bill on behalf of today’s energy bill payers but declined to set out the cost of this huge package. It could end up surpassing the bank bailouts at the height of the financial crisis.”
Union leaders have also criticized the government’s energy plan with Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, saying “the prime minister is making the wrong people pay. She should have imposed a much larger windfall tax on profiteering oil and gas giants.”
Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said “it is quite frankly remarkable that the prime minister is asking workers to pay for massive energy company profits … the reason we are held to ransom now by an over-reliance on non-domestic energy is that a conservative government privatized our energy.”
Andy Prendergast, the national officer at the GMB Union, said the failures of a conservative parties in the energy sector despite being in office for 12 years “means we are playing catch-up in the race to defend ourselves against the global energy crisis.”
The Scottish National Party leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, said “after all the waiting, it couldn’t be any clearer, [the prime minister] set it out very brazenly. The prime minister’s plan means that the public pays. She has made the political choice to tax families instead of companies, to put profit over people.”
In the face of scathing criticism, the government will use public money to pay the costs of the ceremonies for the queen’s state funeral followed by the king’s coronation, something that will not be lost on a nation struggling with a cost-of-living crisis.
- source : Tehrantimes