The hidden cost of bank holidays

Stat of the day: £2.3bn. The amount lost to the UK economy each bank holiday. MT reckons that it's all down to the long-standing tradition of bad weather over the British long weekend; no opportunity to make up lost GDP through ice cream and donkey rides...

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

The Centre for Economics and Business Research has crunched the numbers to declare bank holidays a public menace: 'About 45% of the economy suffers!' says Douglas McWilliams of the CEBR. And in the year of the Diamond Jubilee too.

There will be nine bank holidays in the UK this year, with one more thrown in over in Scotland. Scrapping all of these, however, would raise £19bn for the economy, says the CEBR. The UK relies more heavily on the services industry than other nations, it explains, which is typically the sector that grinds to a halt on bank holidays.

Of couse, not all businesses suffer. Even McWilliams admits: 'It's a mixed thing. About 15% of the economy - pubs, clubs, restaurants and visitor attractions - does well.' It's more a case of lost momentum, with so many bank holidays clustered close together. Still, the UK has far fewer than many other European countries. There's a statutory minimum of 14 in Spain, 13 in Portugal, 12 in Greece, 11 in France, and nine in Germany and Ireland.

Responding to the threat to the beloved public holiday, GMB leader Paul Kenny called the CEBR's report 'utter rubbish'. 'We could send kids down the mines again too and go back to working six days a week again as well,' he said, without a hint of hyperbole.

But Mervyn King and the Office for National Statistics have both warned about the effects of bank holidays on economic growth in recent months. Warnings that carry extra weight at a time when tiny fractions of a percentage can mean the difference between recovery and recession.

Still, imagine the nation's gardens if the bank holiday was scrapped?

Would you ditch the bank holiday to save the economy? Let us know - leave a comment below.

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