Like many bloggers and tweeters whose thoughts I’ve seen these last few days I have mixed feelings about royalty. Ask my kids, who experienced dad opting out yesterday and then creeping in to watch the actual ceremony.
But many people clearly do have positive feelings about the institution and the grand state events related to it.
Positive feelings impact on wellbeing and wellbeing is supposed to be the new measure of how we’re doing as a nation and a society.
Health professionals recognised the importance of wider social, environmental and economic wellbeing to health a long time ago. Our last (UK) Labour government, and in my neck of the woods the devolved Scottish Government, both accepted the notion and our current UK coalition has gone as far as to ask the Office for National Statistics to come up with a measurement of it to supplement if not replace the blunter measurement in money terms of gross national product.
Wellbeing related directly to the big state/royal events can also give rise to other positive feelings. Witness my neighbours, who held a royal wedding day garden party (thanks Ruth, thanks Andy). A sunny day, a great atmosphere, white wine on the lawn, a chance to catch up with the neighbours and a consensus that we live in “one of the friendliest streets in the city”. Perhaps not the big society in action but a nice small society.
So neither the notion of wellbeing nor its practice seem to be much in dispute.
I then move to the fact that at least three Scottish councils declined to give their staff the day off for the royal wedding.
Reading the media reports of their decision it’s clear that their motivation seemed to be financial rather than political. Indeed, the leader of the one party in Scotland that might have the greatest cause to feel indifferent to a British royal wedding, the SNP, accepted his invitation as first minister to attend the wedding with his wife. Good for him.
This comment is not about naming and shaming and anyone interested in the three councils can easily find them online.
But in general terms, their reasoning tends towards the curmudgeonly and doesn’t seem to be wholly supported by their arithmetic.
For example, one says a fixed public holiday plus an extra day’s leave for staff would cost them £300,000. Their revenue budget for 2011/12 is a whisker under £599 million. So that extra day would cost them 0.05% of that budget. In my experience the education department of a medium sized council can blink and lose or gain a mere £300,000 through some unforeseen circumstance.
Another council, much smaller with a budget of about £112 million, says a public holiday would cost it about £375,000 in lost productivity, 0.3% of their total budget. Again, even in these hard times a variance (as the accountants call it) that is quite manageable.
Balanced against these notional savings would have been the positive wellbeing arising from a more generous attitude to their staff. It seems a tiny price to pay.
I wonder how many of those staff anyhow spent at least some of the day clustered around a TV in a staff room or with the radio quietly on in an office.
Apologies are not quite the sentiment, but I’m sorry if I’ve missed any other UK councils who counted yesterday as a normal working day.