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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Buckingham Palace: Where Public Money Goes to Waste

Photo © 2009 Kyle Wood

Discovering severe financial mismanagement by the Royal Household, the Public Accounts Committee have now suggested that Buckingham Palace should be opened up to more paying customers when the Queen is not in residence.

Every year, £31m of taxpayer funds is handed over from the Government to the monarchy to allow them to perform their “official duties”. Arguably a nationalised institution, the monarchy spends this massive sum of money maintaining their palaces, paying their staff and funding Royal duties, like state visits.

It’s a well-worn analogy by now, but we must consider the hypocrisy of our funding of this historic institution. Whilst measly citizens tire themselves out with endless work and constant anxiety, hearing headlines around rising council taxes and electricity bills and seeing their friends, family and neighbours evicted from their homes because they have one too many bedrooms, the Queen seems exempt. Her home is taxpayer funded much like council houses but, with 240 bedrooms, the monarch, unlike less-privileged members of the population, isn’t faced with an eviction notice.

Yes, having a monarchy does come with its benefits – they do bring in some income through tourism – but these are benefits that can easily be found by pumping this extraordinary amount of money into other sectors. And, in light of the Public Accounts Committee’s findings that the Household has been overspending, what trust can we have in those that manage the Queen’s finances. According to the Committee’s reports, poor management by the Queen’s staff has meant that adequate funding has not been found for the monarchy to perform their duties that provide these benefits. “The Queen has not been served well,” the report finds. With just £31m a year and only £1m in their reserve fund, it must be difficult getting the food on the table in the evening. We mustn’t forget also that the monarchy does have its own private source of income, generated from their land, property and wider assets. Despite this, and the Public Accounts Committee’s criticism, the grant is set to rise to £37.9m this year.

And, therefore, it is simply ludicrous that those in the population with sincere adoration for the Monarchy, a keen interest in historical architecture or a curiosity to know what a life of luxury looks like, should be the people laden with the task of coughing up for the household’s poor financial management. To ask us, as citizens who contribute massively to this £31m grant, to pay even more to have the privilege of seeing a tiny proportion of the inside of a palace we technically all own a small part of is, quite frankly, appalling. It is those household staff with the remit of ensuring the funds are distributed appropriately that should be required to find a way of plugging their shortfall. This should most certainly be done in a way that does not mean that the public suffer even more.

Whatever your beliefs about the monarchy, it is a slap in the face to know that you should have to pay to visit a house that you are helping to fund. This house, filled with impressive art collections, and architecture of enviable grandness is just one of several that is given to the Monarchy and paid for with our taxes. If we are to truly end the financial mismanagement within the Royal Household, there is one clear solution: stop using public money to prop up this out-dated and useless institution.