It’s no secret that the UK – like many other countries – is in financial hot water thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
So it may have come as a bit of a shock on Wednesday when it was announced that the government would be using £900,000 of taxpayers’ money to paint Boris Johnson’s military grey RAF VIP plane.
It’s not just any old spruce up – the plane, which is shared by the PM, senior cabinet minsters and the royal family, will be decked out in red, white and blue to represent the Union Jack.
Johnson has previously questioned why the plane is grey, and said as foreign secretary that he would like to have a “Brexit plane” to help him travel the world and promote the government’s vision of global Britain.
The PM’s official spokesperson said that “at every stage we have worked to ensure value for money for the UK taxpayer”, arguing that the RAF Voyager was being repainted so it can “better represent the UK around the world with national branding, similar to many other leaders’ planes”.
Here’s what the PM could have chosen to spend the money on instead.
22,500 courses of dexamethasone for coronavirus patients
You may have heard about dexamethasone in recent days – it’s a steroid drug that has been found to reduce the mortality rate of Covid-19 patients who end up on a ventilator by around a third.
Meanwhile, a trial also discovered it cuts the risk of death by a fifth for coronavirus patients on oxygen.
The £900,000 of taxpayers’ money to be spent painting Boris Johnson’s plane could pay for 22,500 courses of dexamethasone for coronavirus patients, with researchers suggesting each course costs about £40.
University tuition for 32 student nurses
Student nurses currently pay £9,250 a year in tuition fees. The cost of the “Brexit” jet revamp could have paid for 32 undergraduates to complete a three-year nursing degree and join the NHS.
Wages for 360 furloughed workers
As of the start of June, around 8.7m UK workers had been furloughed during the coronavirus pandemic.
With the government paying furloughed workers 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month, £900,000 could have been used to pay the wages of at least 360 furloughed staff – likely more if they weren’t all earning £37,500 a year (which is what £2,500 a month is 80% of).
A week of free school meals for 60,000 children
Under the current scheme, families who are eligible for free school meals receive £15 in food vouchers a week for each child.
Rather than spending £900,000 on painting a plane, the government could have funded a week of free school meals for 60,000 children.
On Tuesday, a campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford prompted a U-turn by the government over free school meals during the summer holidays.
Ministers had previously said they would not fund the scheme during the six-week break from school.
But Downing Street has now announced a one-off £120m fund which will benefit some 1.3m children in England all summer.