By Ruby Lott-Lavigna / openDemocracy
The Queen’s funeral will shut down food banks and other cost of living services while the country grapples with its worst poverty crisis in decades.
Critics say millions at risk “cannot wait for help” as the country grinds to a halt for the event, whose cost is expected to run into the millions.
At least one food bank has reversed the decision to close after “overwhelming support” meant additional volunteers were available for shifts on the bank holiday, but at least six others – in Sutton, Trafford South, Southwark, East Elmbridge, Sunderland and Headingley – have said they will have to close. Five of these are funded by the Trussell Trust but governed independently, meaning decisions to stay open are made locally. Volunteers at the Right Choices Project in Headingley, Leeds, said they were unable to open as food deliveries had been cancelled.
Schools are also set to shut, court cases will be delayed, and the passing of new laws will be put on hold. It was revealed yesterday that even hospital appointments would be cancelled for the last-minute bank holiday.
Meanwhile, local councils have suspended events intended to help people with the surging cost of living – not just on Monday, but throughout the official period of mourning. Hounslow Council in west London paused a half-day “Cost of Living Marketplace” that would have offered “residents support in employment and training, managing their weekly food shop, housing concerns and wellbeing”.
On Monday, Camden Council suspended a cost of living debate to hear tributes to the Queen and to endorse a motion all-party expressing “profound sadness” after the Queen’s passing.
Meanwhile, readings of draft legislation have been delayed because of the suspension of Parliament. According to the House of Commons schedule, bills relating to decarbonisation, protection from redundancy for pregnant people, and workers’ rights have all been delayed.
“The death of the Queen will understandably cause some disruption to the state and government,” a spokesperson for political organisation Momentum told openDemocracy, “but it’s vital that our democratic institutions – whether Parliament or political parties – operate at full capacity as the cost of living crisis continues to wreak havoc across the country.
“It is precisely at these moments that we need quick and meaningful action. Millions of people are at risk of falling into poverty – they cannot wait for help.”
Inflation has recently hit a 40-year high, while already soaring energy bills are set to go up by more than £1,000 a year from October.
Official government guidance does not require the cancellation of any events.