Royal overspend prompts call to open palace doors

 
Tourists stood outside Buckingham Palace gates Buckingham Palace is open to visitors daily in August and September

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Buckingham Palace should be opened to more paying visitors when the Queen is not in residence to fund improvements to the royal estate, MPs have said.

The Public Accounts Committee criticised the Royal Household for mismanaging its finances.

Chairwoman Margaret Hodge said there was "huge scope for savings" on the annual £31m of taxpayer funds given to the Queen to spend on official duties.

But a spokeswoman for the royals said spending was now more transparent.

The Sovereign Grant replaced the old Civil List and grants-in-aid system in 2012 and is used to fund royal duties, pay staff and maintain palaces.

The report said Buckingham Palace had overspent on the grant by £2.3m last year and had to dip into its reserves, "leaving a balance of only £1m at 31 March 2013 - a historically low level of contingency"

'Dangerous condition'

"I don't think we'd accuse anybody of profligacy but, what we are saying, is that we don't think the Queen is served well either by the Royal Household or, indeed, by the Treasury," Mrs Hodge told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Victoria and Albert Mausoleum at Frogmore The report said the Victoria and Albert Mausoleum was in need of repair

"They're not balancing books and they're dipping into their reserves," the Labour MP said.

The report also found:

  • The Royal Household was "not looking after nationally important heritage properties adequately", saying that, in March 2012, 39% of the royal estate was "below what the household deemed to be an acceptable condition"
  • The household needed "to get a much firmer grip" on how it planned to address the backlog and cost repairs and the Treasury "did not require an estimate"
  • The Treasury had a duty "to be actively involved in reviewing the household's financial planning and management - and it has failed to do so"
'Eke money'

While the committee praised the Royal Household for generating £11.6m last year - up from £6.7m in 2007/08 - it said more could be done.

Funding for the Queen 2012/2013

1. Sovereign Grant - £31m

Pays for royal duties, staff and maintaining palaces. Calculated as a percentage of profits from the Crown Estate property portfolio, worth £8.1bn.

2. Duchy of Lancaster income - £12.8m (net operating income)

Portfolio of land, property and assets held in trust for the Queen. Used to meet her official and private expenditure.

3. Personal wealth and income - Not known

Derived from personal investment portfolio and private estates, including Balmoral and Sandringham, and used to meet private expenses.

Source: British Monarchy website

Mrs Hodge said the Royal Household had escaped public sector austerity, only reducing spending by 5% in the past six years.

"They've kept the same amount of staff in there that they had five years ago, so we think that they can eke more money and they certainly should deal with the heritage properties."

She added: "The Queen can attract income - visitors to Buckingham Palace - but Buckingham Palace is only open 78 days a year, they only have about half a million visitors.

"Compare that to the Tower of London - they have over 2 million visitors."

She said boosting annual visitor numbers could help to pay for improvements both to Windsor Castle and to the Victoria and Albert Mausoleum, which had been waiting 18 years for repairs.

The Queen and Prince Philip arriving for a visit to Southwark Cathedral in London The Sovereign Grant funds the Queen's official duties
Art collection

Buckingham Palace's "state rooms" - those designed for monarchs to "receive, reward and entertain their subjects and visiting dignitaries" - have been open to the paying public during August and September since 1993.

Margaret Hodge MP: "The boiler in Buckingham Palace is 60 years old... if it doesn't get replaced, the bills go up"

Profits initially helped to pay for the restoration of Windsor Castle, which was fire-damaged in November 1992, and now go to the Royal Collection Trust charity, which manages the Royal Collection - "one of the most important art collections in the world".

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: "The move to the Sovereign Grant has created a more transparent and scrutinised system, which enables the Royal Household to allocate funding according to priorities.

Start Quote

The new arrangements established by the Sovereign Grant Act have made the royal finances more transparent than ever”

End Quote Treasury spokesman

"This has resulted in a more efficient use of public funds."

She added that it was a priority for the Royal Household to "reduce the backlog in essential maintenance across the occupied royal palaces".

A Treasury spokesman said "The new arrangements established by the Sovereign Grant Act have made the royal finances more transparent than ever while providing the long term stability necessary for good planning."

The committee had not properly taken these changes into account, he added.

The Sovereign Grant was £31m last year and is set to rise to £37.9m by 2014-15.

Anti-monarchy pressure group Republic, meanwhile, accused the committee of failing to take account of the cost of security, costs to local government and any revenue earned by the Duchy of Cornwall and Duchy of Lancaster estates.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 864.

    The palace of Versaille does very nicely without a monachy. Just imagine how much good we could do with a 31 + 12.8 M per year if we got rid of ours too. We Brits are supposed to dislike the French, but this is surely one thing they got right!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 863.

    When will this rabid self-publicist - who was notable by how little she actually did/achieved/said during 13 years of a Labour Government - give us all a break and do something useful?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 862.

    As Cameron has 4 homes, Blair 4/5 then all the MPs with 2nd homes with utilities, decorating, security, contents insurance + contents paid for by us, the Margaret Hodge aught to be be cutting back on their expenses/luxuries/life style, etc. The Queen has not retired the MPs will land up with several cushy jobs. Wasn't Gow in Thatchers time who bought 40 council homes to rent out,making fortune

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 861.

    @855. Bumble
    I see the fact that when the tourists go to see these buildings, the chance they may see the royals, which is probably one of the reasons they go to see the buildings, escapes you.

    @853. chrislabiff

    Do some research before you comment, then you won't look as much a fool as you do now.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 860.

    Remove these unroyal benefit scroungers and bring full democracy and equality as it meant to be. Shame on these benefit claimants being called Royals.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 859.

    I can appreciate the logic calling for a reduction in cost of the Monarchy - but can those advocating it is dismantled please provide a coherent alternative?

    The argument about 'tourism' is a massive red herring, this is about the preferred approach to a head of state.

    As for Mrs Hodge, she wont be satisfied until she has absorbed literally all the limelight in the Universe.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 858.

    814.Onan the Barbarian
    So she's a good leader then..?
    There's nothing saying the system doesn't work either, seems she has support of the people still & other nations.
    816.Bumble
    Yeah, cos the sunny beach here is amazing & the fried food is good.
    Spainish royalty doesn't get much coverage, precisely why they are not as good as ours - ours know how to play the media game & project an image.

  • Comment number 857.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 856.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 855.

    @842.Brit
    'Do people go to a zoo to see the empty cages once the animals have gone in? No, they go to see the animals.'

    How often do tourists actually see the royals at these buildings? Hardly ever. The tourists coming over know this and go to see the buildings not the royals.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 854.

    where is Oliver Cromwell and his mates when you need them.?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 853.

    SO glad to see hrh shelling out to help her suffering subjects.

    Ditch the royals, period.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 852.

    I look forward to all the taxpayer funded houses of MPs, ministers armed forces Governor of the bank of England and anyone with a company funded or part funded house having to open their doors for the taxpayers to look at as well. La Hodge wouldn't be so keen if her house had to be open to the public.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 851.

    801.qqpp
    Didn't KG V himself say of his son Edward: "After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself within 12 months", "I pray to God my eldest son will never marry and have children" Which doesn't say much for a King's belief in the mystical hereditary first-son principle. And KGV's higher standard education apparently resulted in his main leisure interests being killing game and sticking stamps

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 850.

    845.Larrikin
    You missed off The Palace of Westminister. It can only be called a Palace if the monarch has a bedroom there so it's one or HRH's Palaces. Maybe that should be open more often when she's not there?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 849.

    After QE, put the others out to pasture. Curtsy Camilla....no way, even for formality!! How about the palace staff...what will they be good for...who has their shoelaces ironed these days? Open palaces for tourism like the French have done.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 848.

    842.Brit - An absurd analogy - how do you account for the millions of tourists who visit Versailles and the Hermitage every year? Or the fact that tourism would benefit enormously from the abolition of the Monarchy - leading to the complete opening of all royal buildings all year round?

    Though I will grant that the comparison to Royal life and a zoo is accurate.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 847.

    830.annieavatar

    "One child in 3, that is 4 MILLION children in the UK live in poverty."

    Define poverty.

    Children with no shoes, rickets, working in factories for 12 hours a day at the age of 7, wearing just a thin shirt in winter, can't afford to see a doctor, gruel to eat most days, nothing on the other days

    Lack of TV, video, hamburger & chips and football ticket does not constitute poverty.

  • Comment number 846.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 845.

    The Queen has Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Sandringham and Balmoral among her several residences. She can't live in all of them at once, so when she's not there, why not open them up to the citizens of our country who pay for their upkeep? Most of the year visitors are allowed in the White House. Why shouldn't that apply to all these royal palaces?

 

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  53.  
    09:50: Morgan on Marr

    Nicky Morgan dismisses claims that her predecessor Michael Gove is "back seat driving" the education department as a "complete load of nonsense."

    Michael Gove has been "nothing but supportive", and while he may have seen some departmental briefings in his role as Chief Whip Ms Morgan affirms "I am in charge of the Department of Education".

     
  54.  
    The Andrew Marr Show

    tweets: Morgan - It is an 'outrage' if students leave school with qualifications that do not help them to enter the world of work #marr #marrshow

     
  55.  
    09:47: Morgan on Marr

    Asked by Andrew Marr whether schools funding for ages five - 16 will be "ring fenced" under a Conservative government Nicky Morgan nods. She tells Marr that she is "fighting" for the funding.

     
  56.  
    09:43: Nicky Morgan on Marr
    Nicky Morgan on The Andrew Marr Show

    Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is on the Andrew Marr Show, defending her "war on illiteracy and innumeracy" which includes new plans to get all children to know their 12 times table when they leave primary school.

    "Getting... the absolute basics right has to be at the core of our education system," she says.

     
  57.  
    09:38: Alexander on Marr

    Douglas Alexander refuses to be drawn on whether he will make a deal with SNP and Sinn Fein to from a majority government after the general elections. But he accuses the Conservatives of trying to "split the vote on the left" after they tweeted a mocked-up picture of Ed Miliband alongside SNP politician Alex Salmond and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, with the caption: "Your worst nightmare just got even worse."

    Labour has vowed not to feature Prime Minister David Cameron on its campaign billboards ahead of the general election.

     
  58.  
    The Andrew Marr Show

    tweets: Alexander - Voting for the SNP in the general election will result in a Conservative government

     
  59.  
    09:34: Alexander on Marr

    Douglas Alexander is pressed on the challenge facing Labour in Scotland, where Andrew Marr suggests his own seat is under pressure. "The polls are tough", Mr Alexander says, adding that he realises there is an appetite for change north of the border. But he says "I share that appetite for change" and adds: "The way we can secure that change is to deliver the maximum number of Labour MPs..."

     
  60.  
    09:28: Alexander on Marr
    Douglas Alexander on The Andrew Marr Show

    Labour election strategist Douglas Alexander tells the Andrew Marr Show: "We face a challenge to secure a recovery that reaches beyond the city of London and reaches kitchen tables right around the country."

     
  61.  
    Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: first question to @NickyMorgan01 on @MarrShow is surely 'whats 12 x 12?'

    Robin is of course referencing the education secretary's "war on illiteracy and innumeracy" which state that all children in England will need to know up to their 12 times table when they leave primary school.

     
  62.  
    Guardian political editor Patrick Wintour

    tweets: Some pointed advice from Andrew Rawnsley for Tony Blair - time to say whose side you are on.

     
  63.  
    09:13: Papers on Marr
    Sun on Sunday editor Victoria Newton and impressionist Rory Bremner are doing the paper review to get The Andrew Marr Show under way

    Reviewing the newspapers on the Andrew Marr Show, impressionist Rory Bremner picks out the Observer's story on what it says is an acute shortage of beds for young mental health patients. This will be a "critical area" for the next government to get involved in, the comedian says. His fellow paper reviewer is Sun on Sunday editor Victoria Newton.

     
  64.  
    Labour press team

    tweets: Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary @DAlexanderMP will be speaking to the @MarrShow this morning on @BBCTwo at 9am

     
  65.  
    08:50: 'Back seat driving' The Independent
    The Independent on Sunday

    The Independent on Sunday claims former Education Secretary Michael Gove is still "back-seat driving" his old department and maintains a "shadowy influence" behind the back of his "more teacher-friendly" successor Mrs Morgan.

    The paper says the chief whip still receives paperwork related to Department for Education issues.

     
  66.  
    08:44: New beds crisis
    The Observer

    The Observer leads on what it says is an acute shortage of beds for young mental health patients in the NHS.

    According to guidelines from NHS England, leaked to the Observer, 16 and 17-year olds, who should be admitted to specialist child adolescent mental health facilities (Camhs), are likely instead to be admitted to adult wards.

     
  67.  
    08:41: 'War on illiteracy' Sunday Times
    Sunday Times

    The Sunday Times's top story (paywall) is Education Secretary Nicky Morgan's "war on illiteracy and innumeracy". The paper says she plans to remove head teachers from schools where 11-year-old pupils cannot pass tests on basic English and times tables.

     
  68.  
    08:37: Miliband attacked The Daily Telegraph
    Telegraph

    Ed Miliband has faced criticism from a leading business chief who said a Labour government would be a "catastrophe" for the UK.

    Stefano Pessina, acting chief executive of Boots, said in an interview with today's Sunday Telegraph that Mr Miliband's plans were "not helpful for business, not helpful for the country and in the end, it probably won't be helpful for them".

    He did not elaborate on which specific policies of the party he disliked but told the newspaper: "If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe."

     
  69.  
    08:33: Sunday papers
    Papers

    It is a very mixed - and highly politicised - Sunday for headlines in the nationals. You can read the full write up from our online paper reviewers. But we'll also break it down into bite-sized chunks for you in the next few entries.

     
  70.  
    08:28: Coming up

    A few must watch items for your Sunday morning:

    The Andrew Marr Show is at 09:00 when Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander will be on the sofa. You can watch via the Live Coverage tab at the top of this page.

    Sunday Politics, tennis permitting, at 11:00 will hear from Culture Secretary Sajid Javid and Labour MP Tom Watson. Again, watch live on this page.

    Other options for your Sunday morning political fix include Pienaar's Politics from 10:00 to 11:00 on BBC radio 5Live and we'll also bring you updates from the Murnaghan programme, over on Sky News from 10:00-12:00.

    And of course you may want to keep one eye on events in Melbourne too, where Andy Murray is taking on Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open tennis final. The BBC has live coverage here.

     
  71.  
    08:20: Good morning

    Hello and welcome to Politics Live. Over the course of the next 10 hours we'll be bringing you all the news, views and analysis as it happens from the BBC's political team in text and video - including all the key moments from the Andrew Marr Show, Sunday Politics, the World This Weekend and reaction to the big Sunday newspaper stories. You can see how Friday, which was a Churchill remembered special, unfolded by clicking here.

     

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