The claim
“The wedding of Kate and William will be a happy and momentous occasion. We want to mark the day as one of national celebration, a bank holiday will ensure the most people possible will have a chance to celebrate on the day.”
“The costs of the wedding itself will be met by the Royal Household, with Government meeting any wider security or transport related costs.”
Prime Minister David Cameron, 23 November 2010

The background
So today we know the date. Whether you want to line the streets and cheer or flee the country and hide, you can prepare yourself for the Royal Wedding to be on Friday 29 April next year.

In case that wasn’t enough, Downing Street today declared that we all get an extra bank holiday on the day to celebrate – making it a four-day weekend as the following Monday is also the May Bank Holiday (it’s also the weekend after Easter, so the nation gets two four-day weekends in a row).

But how much will all these celebrations really cost the taxpayer and the economy?

The analysis
Let’s start with the extra bank holiday itself. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills expects the cost to the economy to be around £2.9bn, excluding Scotland which decides bank holidays separately. That’s based on government analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics on the cost of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. The government reckons the two bank holidays will cost about the same.

Of course, there have been other numbers floating around – one often quoted is from the CBI, who put the cost of a regular extra bank holiday in November at around £6bn. On the Royal Wedding, they have been more favourable, with a spokesperson saying: “The Royal Wedding is a day for national celebration, and under these unique circumstances a one-off additional bank holiday is appropriate.”

In contrast, the TUC, who have long advocated for an extra bank holiday, put the total lower at £1.2bn. But this figure offsets the cost against the amount a bank holiday would bring in through the tourism, retail, transport and hospitality sectors.

Now, just how much the economy will claw back from the wedding frenzy can only be speculated at the moment. Estimates currently range from a boost of £620m to £1bn.

That includes us spending £360m on food and alcohol, with another £26m on merchandise, according to Neil Saunders, consulting director of retail researchers Verdict.

Mark Di-Toro, spokesman for Visit Britain, said last week: “We know from our research that anything to do with the monarchy – places, events, history – generated over £500m in 2009. We hope in the Royal Wedding year to do even better.”

But Richard Dodd, of the British Retail Consortium, called the amounts talked about “a drop in the ocean” compared to the £285bn retail spending last year. “It is a modest amount of good news for some retailers but I have heard some reports suggesting it would turn around the economy but that’s ludicrous.”

As for the big day itself, Mr Cameron confirmed that the government would pick up the tab for security or transport-related costs with the rest of the shindig being paid by the Royal Household and the Middletons.

What exactly the total taxpayer bill will be is something that will be agonised over from now until long after Wills and Kate walk down the aisle, but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport put an estimate for the whole caboodle as a seven figure sum, somewhere up to or just over £10m. This including lining the route with flags and balloons, managing press access, stewarding and – the biggest cost – policing.

The Metropolitan Police Authority said it is too early to put an exact cost for the Royal Wedding. We do, however, have a recent example to draw on – the Pope’s four-day visit cost around £2 million to police. There will be higher costs for the wedding though, because now it is a bank holiday, those police officers who work on that day will get double pay.

Cleaning up after all the revelers trekking to Westminster Abbey will also be a cost. Westminster City Council said that they don’t know who will pick up the tab for the clean-up around the wedding yet – Princess Diana’s funeral was paid by central Government, while the Papal visit was covered by them. They are, however, estimating that the additional street cleansing resources will be around £30,000-£40,000. That compares to £22,000 that the Pope’s visit cost, £23,000 covered by the GLA to cover the New Year’s Eve fireworks, and is much less than the £300,000 clean-up costs of Princess Diana’s funeral.

The verdict

So, when the Royal Wedding comes around we won’t be paying for the flowers and the dress from the public purse, but watch all those hidden costs. And for those who will glower at the site of commemorative plates, just think of the extra day off you are getting that they will go some way to covering the cost to the economy.