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Economically Active

One of the big questions that has arisen since the pandemic is: Where did all the workers go? According to the Office for National Statistics there are approximately 9.2 million people of working age in Britain who are not in work or even looking for it – a figure which has grown by more than 700,000 since Covid struck.

Having taken a few days off this week, I’m happy to report that I’ve found them. Or at least a significant proportion of them.

It turns out that somewhere between 55,000 and 70,000 people turn up each day at a place called Cheltenham, in the Cotswolds. While they clearly don’t have jobs to go to, they’re far from being economically inactive – most of them carry bulging wallets or handbags and bet like billy-oh. Who needs a job when all you have to do is stick your readies on a Willie Mullins trained shorty and get a 50% return on your investment within 10 minutes?

Actually, having joined the crowd, I’ve noticed that this doesn’t work every time. Once in a while, one of the Mullins runners makes a horlicks of the fences and pulls up, but it’s a rare enough occurrence not to put anyone off. And, every now and then, Mullins lets Dan Skelton win a race or two which keeps everyone guessing and maintains a sense of excitement about the proceedings. Saturday’s selection is the Mullins trained Mr Incredible in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter – different day, different track, same result.

Two years ago, students from the University of Gloucestershire carried out a survey of racegoers and estimated that racegoers at the Cheltenham Festival contributed £274 million to the local economy through travel, accommodation, dining out and entertainment. More than half of the racegoers spend some time in the town as part of their trip, and roughly a third of those that don’t stay locally for a period of several days.

Prices haven’t shrunk since 2022, so it’s fair to assume that this economic contribution has continued to grow. While there have been some suggestions that the crowds on Wednesday and Thursday were slightly smaller than normal, if you’re thinking of attending the Gold Cup today (Friday), I’d still recommend that you set off early to beat the traffic. Apparently more than half of all Festival racegoers return every year so, not only are they a reliable income stream for the region, they also know all about that handy little shortcut which you thought would help you to circumnavigate the queues

Anyway, must shoot. I have an exciting day of economic inactivity ahead of me and I need to take plenty of cash…

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