Queen faces snub over 1m plea for crumbling palaces

Queen faces snub over 1m plea for crumbling palaces

29th June 2007
Daily Mail

Buckingham Palace

The Queen is on a collision course with ministers after being told she is unlikely to get extra money to repair "crumbling" Buckingham Palace and other royal properties.

Her official London residence is decaying so badly that a large piece of masonry came loose and plunged to the ground, missing Princess Anne's car by inches, it has emerged.

A similar incident happened four months earlier on the day that almost 1,000 pupils and teachers were due to visit the palace for a science fair.

Royal aides say they need an extra 1million a year from the taxpayer to stop the "critical" backlog of repairs spiralling out of control.

They have already gone cap-in-hand to outgoing Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell for the funding but admit they are pessimistic about the outcome as money is being ploughed into the 2012 Olympics.

"We have had very little feedback but in the overall context of government spending it is unlikely to be successful," said a senior aide. "This is a really serious situation. We are talking about safety. The funding is critical."

Details of the Queen's domestic woes emerged as Buckingham Palace issued its annual report on royal public finances.

The taxpayer gave 37.3 million last year to fund the Queen as Head of State

It revealed that the Queen and her family cost taxpayers 37.3million last year which works out at 62p for every man, woman and child in the country - "less than the price of two first-class stamps", boasted Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse.

With an annual salary of 188,000, Sir Alan is the Queen's highest-paid employee.

The total figure does not include the cost of protecting the Royal Family, however, which was most recently estimated to be more than 100million per annum.

"We cannot reveal the exact figure for security reasons but we cannot be held to account for global terrorism," Sir Alan insisted.

The report also showed that Prince Charles is the most expensive member of the family and that the Royal Train cost 64,000 for each of the 11 journeys it made last year.

The buildings most in need of urgent repair are Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Frogmore House.

Windsor has had its lead roofs "patched up" so many times over the years that an area the size of both Centre and Number One Courts at Wimbledon need completely replacing.

At Frogmore, which is in the grounds of Home Park at Windsor, parts of the Victoria and Albert Mausoleum's ceiling have fallen in and the situation is so serious that English Heritage has warned it may need to be closed completely.

The problems are most acute, however, at Buckingham Palace. The elegant quadrangle is described as a "potential risk to health and safety". Built in 1847 out of Caen stone, it has been badly affected by the elements.

Although aides insist the area is not dangerous for members of the public, they admit the incident involving Princess Anne's car in February was a close call. "It was fairly dramatic. To have the nation's palaces crumbling in front of our eyes simply isn't acceptable,' one senior aide said.

The maintenance of official royal residences is funded by a grant from the Department for Culture Media and Sport.

This was set at 15million a year back in 1991 which, aides argue, has actually meant a drop of almost 70 per cent in real terms.

The Queen keeps an eye on the condition of Buckingham Palace

"The frustration is the feeling that we've been managing the situation under difficult circumstances very well for a number of years and are now paying the price for that efficiency," said an aide.

"It seems as if all of the DCMS's money is going to be diverted towards the 2012 Olympics."

If the Queen is refused the extra money, aides say they will have to divert it from other essential projects rather than play roulette with public safety.

Sir Alan added: "There is a critical backlog in maintenance projects already, however, and if our historic buildings are to remain safe it is essential that the grant is increased by 1million per year."

A spokesman for the department, which will decide on the extra funding in October, said it "recognises the importance of the occupied royal palaces whose repairs and maintenance it helps to fund. However government resources are finite."

Prince Charles, according to the report, is putting a rather sizeable strain on the public purse.

His travel bill soared last year by 37 per cent to 1.25million, making him the most well-travelled and the most expensive royal.

He spent 345,000 charting a private jet for his tour of the Gulf in February this year and a further 269,000 on a plane for his trip to Pakistan last autumn.

Clarence House aides said the Prince of Wales carries out around 630 official engagements every year, an increasing number of which are overseas.

"All of his overseas visits are carried out at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and are hugely important for the country," a spokesman said.

Perhaps she needs to sell and move into more affordable digs.

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