Royal refurb: Palace repairs helped push taxpayer cost of British monarchy above $60 million

The Associated Press
June 26, 2014 04:26 AM

FILE - In this Saturday, June 14, 2014 file photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, foreground, surrounded by members of her family, stands on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch the Royal Air Force fly past, during the Trooping The Colour parade, in central London. Buckingham Palace says the monarchy cost British taxpayers 35.7 million pounds ($60.8 million) last year — 56 pence (just under $1) for everyone in the country. More than a third of the money was spent on repairs and maintenance to aging palaces, and some 3.4 million pounds was spent in the year to March 31, 2014 refurbishing part of London's Kensington Palace into a home for Prince William, his wife Catherine and their toddler son Prince George. As the accounts were published Thursday, June 26, 2014, Keeper of the Privy Purse Alan Reid said the royal household was keen to "maximize the value for money" of the monarchy. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, file)

LONDON - Everyone says there are lots of hidden costs to owning a home. If you own a palace, the costs are royal.

That became evident when the Buckingham Palace released its accounts Thursday, which showed the monarchy cost British taxpayers 35.7 million pounds ($60.8 million) last year — 56 pence (just under $1) for everyone in the country.

That is 7.2 per cent, or 2.4 million pounds, more than the year before and the increase is mainly explained by the British royal family's repair bills.

Their properties are hardly typical. Buckingham Palace, for example, has 240 bedrooms and 78 bathrooms. That's a lot of plumbing to fix when things go wrong.

So it's no surprise that more than a third of the money British taxpayers paid for the monarchy, led by Queen Elizabeth II, was spent on repairs, improvements and maintenance of aging but still opulent palaces.

"We continue to focus on value for money," said Keeper of the Privy Purse Alan Reid, asserting that careful spending habits had allowed for more money to be used for important maintenance work.

A big part of the fixer-upper budget in the 12 months that ended on March 31 went to creating a suitable home for the young family of Prince William, his wife Kate and their toddler Prince George.

Some 3.4 million pounds of taxpayer funds were used to refurbish part of London's Kensington Palace for the couple. The extensive work included removing asbestos, installing new heating and redecorating.

The couple, who have considerable personal financial resources in part because of the estate left by Princess Diana, paid for the carpets, curtains and furniture out of personal funds, the palace said.

In addition, Prince Charles' private secretary, William Nye, suggested that Charles and his wife Camilla — who are supported by profits from the extensive Duchy of Cornwall estate — may have helped William and Kate set up their new home.

The palace accounts also showed the high cost of entertaining on a royal scale: 2 million pounds were spent on "housekeeping and hospitality" in the 12 months that ended on March 31.

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