Hard up Queen asks for raise

LONDON: The British royal family is to demand a pay rise from the taxpayer to fill a looming £40 million hole in its finances.

Queen Elizabeth wants an extra £4 million a year to pay for repairs and improvements to her homes, including Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and St James’s Palace. Courtiers may also request an increase in civil list payments to cover rising costs of running the royal family, which hit £41.5 million during the 2008-09 financial year — an increase of £1.5 million.

The plan to demand extra cash from the taxpayer emerged as the annual report of the royal public finances revealed the royal family spent £6.5 million on travel alone last year. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall spent £33,400 on a private jet to visit the Bushmills whiskey distillery and other engagements in Northern Ireland; the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh spent £14,515 to travel one way from Euston to Liverpool on the royal train — a journey that costs £74 first class when booked in advance on Virgin Trains; and Prince Andrew spent £55,269 on a one-way flight from London to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to co-chair World Economic Forum. The Queen also spent £300,000 relaunching her website, and £8 million on the upkeep of Buckingham Palace — an increase of 36 per cent on the previous year.

The annual publication of the cost of the monarchy sparked fresh calls for the royal family to cover their own expenses by selling tickets to visit their palaces and for greater scrutiny of their spending, in particular on travel, where details of any trip costing under £10,000 are kept secret.

“Now is not a good time to be asking for more money,” said Richard Bacon MP, who sits on the House of Commons public accounts committee, which this month reviewed palace finances. “They should be looking at what could be done to open up the occupied palaces and their priceless treasures to the public and in the process generate more revenue.” He said that if the White House could open for most of the year then Buckingham Palace should too.

This year, the palace

will only open from the

end of July to the end

of September.

Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state, said the real cost of monarchy worked out at more than four times the amount quoted in June 29’s accounts, once the hidden cost of security, which some estimates put at £100 million a year, and other costs are included.

“Some of the travel bills are absolutely extortionate,” said Republic campa-ign manager Graham Smi-th. “Charles took the royal train from Euston to Che-ster and back at a cost of more than £20,000. You could book a whole carri-age on a regular train and it wouldn’t cost that. They put their hands into taxpa-yer’s pocket and try to justify it later.” Republic wants control over royal finances to be handed to a government department and for them to be scrutinised by National Audit Office.