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Monarchy costs taxpayers £35.7m

The monarchy cost the taxpayer £35.7 million in the last tax year – or 56p for each person in the country, Buckingham Palace accounts have revealed.

The Queen’s official expenditure increased in actual terms by £2.4 million from the previous year, while the real terms rise was £1.9 million or 5.7%.

More than a third of the sovereign grant – the system of finance given from the public purse to support the official duties of the monarchy – was spent on maintaining palaces.

The accounts show spending on property maintenance increased by £4.2m to £13.3m – a real terms rise of 45% as the Royal Family attempted to tackle a “backlog” of restoration work.

A total of 133 projects costing more than £3,500 were carried out across the estate.

This included £3.4m to refurbish of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s family home.

The apartment at 1A Kensington Palace was “completely reserviced” from April last year following the removal of asbestos that had made the property uninhabitable.

Around £1.1m was spent on the property the previous year, taking the total to prepare it for the couple and their son Prince George to move in to more than £4m excluding the work to remove asbestos.

Royal household sources said the apartment had required a “complete refit” and had problems such as no running water but the spending on it was now complete.

Furniture and fittings in the home, which is understood to have around 20 rooms, were met privately by the couple as well as a kitchen and they were said to be “at pains” to “bear down” on public costs.

“Some of the fit out we felt should be paid for privately,” said an aide.

“The Cambridges have been extremely sensitive to the fact that public funds were paying for a lot of this work.”

The source said the apartment was “not opulent”, adding: “It is done to a very comfortable but ordinary level.”

Other maintenance costs included £0.8m to remove asbestos in the basement floor ducts of Buckingham Palace and £0.9m on the renewal of lead roofing at Windsor Castle’s Royal Library.

The accounts also showed the total cost of official travel by road, rail and air for almost 3,000 official royal engagements was £4.2m in 2013/2014 – a fall of £0.3m compared to the previous year.

Travel costs incurred by the Prince of Wales amounted to more than £1m, including £434,000 on his visit to India with the Duchess of Cornwall in November, £255,000 for him to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December and another £245,000 on a trip to the Middle East.

The accounts also showed that the total cost of staffing the Royal Household from public funds was £18.2m – a fall of £100,000 compared to the previous year.

The sovereign grant, calculated on a formula of 15% of profits from the Royal Estate was set at £36.1m for 2013/14.

The remaining £400,000 was put into the reserve funds.

Sir Alan Reid, keeper of the Privy Purse, said public funding of the monarchy had fallen by 8% in real terms in the last two years when maintenance costs are stripped out.

He added: “We take our responsibility to run as efficient an operation as possible.

“In our view we think that we do as good a job as possible in terms of trying maximise the value for money.”

The total amount of public funds spent on the Cambridges’ residence, including the removal of asbestos contamination, was around £4.5 million.

Royal documents said the work also included new heating, hot and cold water, electrical services and a “simple redecoration”. Carpets, curtains and furnishings, along with William and Kate’s family kitchen, were paid for privately.

A Kensington Palace spokesman said: “Before the project started, the residence was in a state of disrepair. It was last refurbished in 1963.

“It has required a significant amount of work to make it inhabitable again. This is the couple’s one and only official residence and it is here they plan to stay for many, many years to come.”

The work was complicated by the fact that the property is a scheduled ancient monument, he added, and all of the elements of the refurbishment had to be agreed with English Heritage.

William Nye, principal private secretary to the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, hinted that they had helped with the private costs of refurbishing the Kensington Palace apartment.

He said: “Young couples setting up home receive some help from their parents or grandparents. Some assistance may have been provided.”

Under the funding formula for the sovereign grant, which replaced the old Civil List and grants-in-aid, the public funding of the monarchy will be set at £37.9m for the current tax year.

A backlog of required maintenance makes up a large share of official spending, with a survey in December finding that 40% of the Royal Estate was “below target condition”.

Asked whether the funds are enough, a royal source said: “We would like it to be more. We don’t like having a property backlog hanging over us. We would like to have enough money to get that fixed… (but) we accept that in recent years the economy has been in such a state that that has been entirely unrealistic.”

The report, which is published today, also detailed the busy schedule undertaken by the Queen in the last year, with the 88-year-old undertaking 309 public engagements in the UK, although she carried out none abroad.

Sir Alan said: “The Queen is busier than ever, which perhaps belies reports that she was easing up.”

The accounts also showed a total of £2m was spent on housekeeping and hospitality, with £1.3m going on food and drink and £0.7m on cleaning, laundry and other services across the official royal residences. The figure was £100,000 higher than the previous year.

The amount spent protecting members of the royal family is not included in the accounts for security reasons. A royal source said these were costs created by terrorism rather than the monarchy.

It was also confirmed that the monarchy has entered into an annually renewable lease with helicopter firm AgustaWestland for a minimum of 150 charter hours for a chopper that will be operated by crew from the Queen’s Helicopter Flight.

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