Author: By Robert Verkaik, Home Affairs Editor
Figures released by Buckingham Palace revealed that royal expenditure rose to a record £41.5m during the last financial year, an increase of £1.5m.
To settle her bills the Queen has been forced to dip into the royal reserves which have been built up over the past 19 years. These are expected to run out by 2012 during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.
But the Government is refusing to increase the £15m it pays for the upkeep of the Queen’s occupied palaces and is fending off demands for a large rise in the £7.9m Civil List which pays for the monarch’s household. Ministers argue that, in the present economic climate, Whitehall budgets are already overstretched. Royal aides counter that Parliament has a constitutional duty to ensure the Queen is financially secure.
Yesterday’s financial report showed that next year the Queen will need to find an additional £7m to balance her books, almost twice the value of the Civil List.
The financial crisis is made worse by a massive property maintenance backlog which the Palace said has now reached £40m, an increase of £8m, for work which has to be completed in the next 10 years. Some of the most pressing maintenance includes the £13m renewal of the lead and slate roofs at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. A further £2.8m is needed for conservation work at the Victorian and Albert Mausoleum which has been placed on English Heritage’s buildings at risk register. There is also urgent need for funds to pay for the removal of asbestos in some of the palaces.
The Palace says that the total £41.5m cost of the Queen amounts to 69p per taxpayer per year. But this does not take into account the bill for security provided by the police and the Army and ceremonial duties performed by the Armed Forces.
The amount spent on royal travel ? which comes from the taxpayer through grants-in-aid payments ? increased by £300,000 to £6.5m. The most expensive journeys were the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall’s long-haul overseas tours, which were mentioned in Charles’s annual review published last week. Yesterday’s accounts revealed the actual figures, showing that the cost came to £1,310,669 including staff reconnaissance trips.
Their charter flights to the Far East cost £655,675, a train ride from Tokyo cost £2,596, their flights to South America came to £645,127 and the charter yachts cost £7,271. In addition, a staff reconnaissance ahead of the trip to the Far East cost £35,810 in flights, while the one to South America was £41,423.
A trip taken by the Queen’s cousin to islands in the South Pacific cost the taxpayer nearly £150,000. The Duke of Gloucester ? 19th in line to the throne ? and his wife, the Duchess of Gloucester, flew to Tonga and the Solomon Islands in August last year. Their scheduled flights from London to New Zealand and back from Australia came to £35,413, while charter flights to the islands came to £114,000 ? a total of £149,413.
The Gloucesters were attending the Coronation of King George Tupou V during the trip, undertaken at the request of the Foreign Office.
The accounts showed that £9.9m from the Civil List was spent on the rising cost of the salaries of the Queen’s staff. Administration cost £1.5m, housekeeping and furnishings came in at £700,000, ceremonial functions totalled £400,000, £1.1m was spent on catering and hospitality and £300,000 was used for other unnamed costs. Garden parties cost £600,000 and the bill for food and the royal kitchens came to £500,000. Computers and IT systems cost £400,000 ? double the figure for 2007 following the launch of a British monarchy website and new personnel, payroll and online recruitment systems.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “There are no formal discussions with the Government about the Civil List. Nothing has been agreed and agreement is not needed until December 2010. But we are always in communication with the relevant government departments.” She added that discussions over an increase in the grant-in-aid payments for the maintenance of the Royal Palaces did not need to be settled until 2011.
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