27 January 2014
Last updated at 21:42 ET
Buckingham Palace is open to visitors daily in August and September
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 influential 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.
Last year Buckingham Palace overspent on the grant by £2.3m and had to dip into its reserves, which the MPs said were now at a “historically low level”.
The report said the Victoria and Albert Mausoleum was in need of repair
Ms Hodge said the committee’s report was the first time the grant had been scrutinised and that it was an opportunity to check how the Queen’s funds were being managed by the Royal Household and the Treasury.
“We found she could be much better served,” the MP told BBC News.
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Buckingham Palace is a lived in palace… but when the Queen is not there you could actually open it up”
Margaret Hodge MP
“They’re spending above their means, they’re dipping into the reserves and the balance now stands at an all-time low.”
The committee’s report found:
- the Royal Household had escaped public sector austerity, only reducing spending by 5% in the last six years
- royal estate properties were in a “dangerous or deteriorating condition”
- there had been no estimate for how much the backlog of repairs will cost
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.
“They’ve tried to increase the money they get in by opening up Buckingham Palace,” Ms Hodge added. “But there’s more to be done to get more income in.”
“Buckingham Palace is a lived in palace… but when the Queen is not there you could actually open it up.”
The Sovereign Grant funds the Queen’s official duties
She said boosting annual visitor numbers from the current half a million would help pay for upgrades to cut electricity and gas bills.
And she said it would fund improvements both to Windsor Castle and to the Victoria and Albert Mausoleum, which had been waiting 18 years for repairs.
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.
“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 £31 million last year and is set to rise to £37.9 million by 2014-15.
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