British lawmakers urge Queen Elizabeth's household to cut costs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 9:32am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 4:04am

British lawmakers have urged Queen Elizabeth's royal household to slash running costs after it was revealed her reserves were down to their last £1 million (HK$12.8 million), a sum the MPs called "historically low".

The Public Accounts Committee report revealed that the royal household ran a deficit of £2.3 million in 2012-13.

"There is scope for the household to generate more income and reduce its costs further," committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said. "Since 2007-08, the household has cut its net costs by 16 per cent in real terms, but 11 per cent of that was achieved by increasing income, and just five per cent by reducing expenditure.

"With better commercial expertise in place, we think there is room to do more with less, reducing costs further and supporting the queen's programme more effectively."

The committee was tasked with examining the Sovereign Grant, the financial system that funds the monarchy.

The report warned a large sum was needed to maintain "nationally important heritage properties" such as London's Victoria and Albert Mausoleum, which has been waiting 18 years for repair work.

Reported problems at Buckingham Palace include leaks in the picture gallery roof, which require buckets in wet weather, 60-year-old boilers and the presence of large amounts of asbestos.

Windsor Castle is also reportedly in need of extensive roof repairs and a new water main.

"The household must get a much firmer grip on how it plans to address its maintenance backlog," Hodge said.

She criticised the country's treasury for failing to properly scrutinise the household's plans.

"We feel that the queen has not been served well by the household and by the Treasury, which is responsible for effective scrutiny of the household's financial planning and management," she said.

"We believe that the Treasury has a duty to be actively involved in reviewing the household's financial planning and management - and it has failed to do so."

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: "The royal household was charged by the Public Assounts Committee in 2009 to generate more income to supplement the funding it receives from government. This has been done successfully.

"A significant financial priority ... is to reduce the backlog in essential maintenance across the occupied royal palaces."