The Bank of England is currently having to make trade-offs between allowing inflation to keep rising and with it the cost-of-living crisis to persist or causing a recession which could mean severe levels of unemployment. Neither are pretty. With the Monetary Policy Committee consisting of only nine members, it is arguably an inadequate number of people to represent and make choices for the whole society. You may start to question the legitimacy, level of accountability and motives behind the Bank of England.
That is what I thought before I joined the Bank of England Citizens’ Forum.
As a rather cynical teenager beginning my A-level Economics journey I couldn’t help but keep questioning the teacher about how the Monetary Policy Committee knows what is best. Why does it only have nine members? Are they influenced by large corporations? How powerful are they actually?
So, I thought where better to answer these questions than the Bank of England itself. So I went onto their website and stumbled across ‘Bank of England Citizens’ Forum’; a community hub setup to engage citizens from all walks of life.
The forum provides a plethora of resources to engage with the Bank: Q&As with members of the Monetary Policy Committee, monthly newsletters, surveys, the list goes on. But a key part for me was Citizens’ Panels, in-person events held around the country. Here, everyday people would discuss the economic issues facing them, whilst being listened to by members of the Bank, which felt incredibly empowering. When I arrived at my first Citizens’ Panel in Peterborough a feeling of fear and anxiety hung above me. I immediately noticed my age, not only was I the only teenager there, the average age was perhaps 40 or 50. I felt as if I shouldn't be there, that because I was younger, I wouldn't be treated equally. I couldn't have been more wrong.
What attending a Citizens’ Panel has shown me is that the Bank of England wants to hear your opinion; listen to the impact of their decisions; and understand what they can do for the betterment of society.
At the event, other members of the =panel and staff from the Bank of England itself discussed a multitude of issues facing our country. I felt privileged that I had the ability to represent my age group, and that I was able to voice my opinion on economic issues that I believe particularly face my generation: the repercussions of the cost-of-living crisis; looming university debt; what the future of money will look like; and the trade-offs that occur with goals such as promoting economic growth and encouraging environmental sustainability or mitigating government debt and inequality.
Attending the panel revealed to me the extent to which society has a voice. I also learned from that day that the Bank of England “works for the people by the people”. The idea that there is a “them” and “us” I believe to be a detrimental misconception that must be resolved. Some may have the perception that the Bank is out of touch with the general public and is surrounded by an echo chamber of large corporations... but this is far from the truth. The Bank does not make decisions solely based on the opinions of the select few in positions of high authority. It represents a far wider population in which all of the UK are able to have a voice. Every individual's unique story can be heard and listened to and that could be your story.
However, I do believe a demographic which is underrepresented is the young. This is not as a result of lack of interest from the Bank itself, but rather a lack of awareness as to the benefits that this can provide to so much of the youth.
We are the future and I believe for the health of that future it is important for us to step up and help shape the way the Bank of England makes decisions. If you are over 16, applying here can be your first step into having the voice which the younger generation so desperately needs.
The Bank of England’s ability to create change is so powerful and has the potential to produce seismic effects within society. By joining you too can have an impact and make a difference, and I believe that to be so incredibly exciting.