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article imageBuckingham Palace Seeks Increase in its Funding

By Chris Dade     Jun 29, 2009 in World
Figures just released, covering the twelve months to March 31 2009, show that the cost of running the British Royal Household in that time rose to £41.5m from the £40m that was required in the previous twelve month period.
In 1990 then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and future Prime Minister, John Major agreed to set the annual sum to be allotted for the running of the Royal Household from government funds, known as the Civil List, at £7.9m. A figure that would be reviewed in ten years time. By the time that those ten years had passed, and Tony Blair was at the head of the government, Queen Elizabeth II had been able to accumulate reserves of £35m and it was felt that an increase in the Civil List was not necessary.
However an increase in recent years in the running costs of the Royal Household has meant that the Queen has dipped in to her reserves to the extent of £6m in the year 2008/2009, to add to the £7.9m provided by the government, in order to meet the total Household cost incurred of £13.9m during that last twelve month period. A large portion of that total Household spend was swallowed up by staffing costs.
As a repetition in subsequent years of this drawing on reserves would result in them being fully utilized, assuming that current spending levels persist, by the time of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 the London Times reports that Buckingham Palace is planning to request an increase in the amount of the Civil List when it comes up for review next year.
The Palace is adamant that as the cost to each individual in Britain of funding the Royal Household in 2008/2009 was only 69p, up from 66p the previous year, their request for an increase in the annual contribution from public funds is wholly justified. Even if the cost is calculated per taxpayer rather than per member of the population then it is still only £1.33 per individual, a figure which certainly does not appear excessive.
Graham Smith of the campaign group Republic, which is dedicated to the dismantling of the Monarchy, disagrees. As reported by the BBC he commented:Once again, the powers that be are continually putting their hands into the public finances. They are not being totally clear and transparent about how that money is spent. This is a hugely expensive institution and we should be looking at massive cuts.
In support of his case Mr Smith can point to other costs of maintaining the Royal Household that are met from public funds and which are separate from the Civil List . One example is the cost of royal travel which stood at £6.5m during the last year, a considerable part of which was spent to cover overseas tours to long-haul destinations by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. Then there is the traditionally undisclosed cost of security for the Royal family and the money spent on the Armed Forces when they are carrying out ceremonial duties.
Last but not least there is the cost of maintenance on the Royal properties for which a £15m grant, also thought to be annual, is provided from public funds. Any increase in that grant has so far been blocked by the relevant government department and only recently the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee suggested that Buckingham Palace could be opened to the public for longer than the present sixty days during August and September, in order to generate the funds for building maintenance. This idea was dismissed by the Palace as impractical and is unlikely to be pursued in the future.
With an estimate from Grant Thornton accountants that the Civil List needs to be increased by 150% during it's next review in 2010, if the current levels of spending are to be sustained without further depleting the reserve fund, the very existence of the Royal Family in the form it takes today may be called into question. Then again, with the Daily Telegraph reporting that the Treasury enjoyed a profit of £221m last year from the Crown Estate, perhaps supporters of this long established institution still have some ammunition for any fight they may face to ensure it's survival.
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