It was three years ago that the campaign really got under way to establish a new bank holiday in the autumn to celebrate the contribution made to society by the voluntary sector.
The proposal was supported by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, other sector bodies, individual trade unions and the TUC. Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said “Politicians are always waxing lyrical about the contribution that voluntary groups make to society.”
This message was grudgingly taken on board by both main political parties and put in the ‘jam tomorrow’ folder. The Conservatives committed themselves before the last election to an annual ‘big society day’, but fought shy of making it a bank holiday. Nick Hurd, now Minister for Civil Society, said: “Given the state of the economy, an extra bank holiday didn’t feel right.”
Difficult, then. Or is it? All you need is a royal wedding, and hey presto! you’ve got an extra bank holiday within ten minutes, regardless of the state of the economy or the fact that it comes at a time of year that is already studded with bank holidays.
As the newspapers point out today, people will only need to book three days holiday to get an eleven day stretch off work. One employment lawyer is quoted in the Times saying April 2011 will be the least productive month for many years: “Employers will be quietly rolling their eyes over this.”
More to the point, it will mean that Third Sector will have to be produced in short weeks for three weeks running. We do the impossible all the time, so no change there. But Prince William and Kate Middleton should have thought about that before choosing their date.
More seriously, the ease with which this bank holiday was decreed should only increase the pressure to create an annual big society holiday at a sensible time of year, in the autumn. Nick Hurd’s ‘state of the economy’ argument won’t wash any more.