Buckingham Palace’s accounts for 2016/17 have just been released, allowing us a look into how the Sovereign Support Grant was spent this last year – also demonstrating the value for money of the British Monarchy.
The Privy Purse was given £42.8 million for the financial year of 2016/17 to support The Queen and the Royal Family in their official duties, and we have a breakdown of the costs. Her Majesty does not receive a salary for her work.
You can read the full 88-page document for yourself here.
The total spend for the year came to £56.8 million, with the additional funds coming from renting out properties and rooms for events. Income supplementing the grant amounted to £14.9 million (up from £13.9 million in 2015/16).
Brief explanation of the Sovereign Support Grant: The Privy Purse receives 10% of profits from the Crown Estate from two years previous, i.e. the 2016/17 figure of £42.8 million came from 10% of 2015’s profits for the Crown Estate. It is expected to fund all official duties, travel, and upkeep of the Palaces.
In the last 10 years, The Crown Estate has paid more than £2.6 billion to the Treasury, thanks in part to swathes of London property. This pales in comparison to the money which funds the Monarchy. You can compare monarchies and the costs of republics in our other article, here.
£4.5 million was the total for travel for all members of the Royal Family on official business, including travel between residences e.g Windsor to Buckingham Palace; private holidays and outings etc are not included in this figure. This is an increase of £500,000 on last year’s figures, but perhaps due to increased petrol prices, and increased workload. 3,000 official engagements were undertaken by the Royal Family in the UK and abroad, 162 for The Queen and 196 by Prince Philip.
The Royal Train was used on 14 occasions in 2016/17 and is used only by The Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles. It costs between £800,000 and £900,000 a year to run, and an official said “although not the cheapest way” of travelling for the senior Royals, it was better in terms of safety, security and convenience for them. Of course, this prevents the need for a police convoy the entire journey, and it appears to be ‘greener’ than road travel, being described as having a ‘strong’ environmental aspect.
Every journey is authorised by The Queen, and she may veto expensive travel. Royals usually travel business class, not first.
REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE:
A 10% rise in the SSG was approved by Parliament earlier this year, to pay for the £369 million of repairs needed at Buckingham Palace. This means the Royal Purse will receive 25% of Crown Estate profits from 2017 to 2027. Next year, the SSG will be £76.1 million.
Even if we did not have a Monarchy, this building would need to be maintained as a Grade I listed, historically important building. Those who claim The Queen should pay for the renovations herself: do you expect the Prime Minister to pay for the upkeep of 10 Downing Street out of her own pocket? Should every civil servant be forced to contribute to the maintenance of their government office? This is exactly the same.
Property maintenance saw an increase: £17.8 million in 2016/17, up from £16.3 million in 2015/16, for obvious reasons, but it should also be noted that the Royal Household now also looks after the Royal Mews. This was the second largest cost for Her Majesty’s grant.
Works carried out in the last year, according to the financial report, included replacing the doors of the Orangery at Windsor Castle, at a cost of £1.2 million; the refurbishment of 30A St James’s Palace for rental purposes (£500,000), and the repair of the State Dining Room Ceiling at Buckingham Palace, which was considered dangerous and closed in 2016. This totalled £1.3 million.
£0.9 million was transferred to the Sovereign Grant Reserve, to build a fund for future such works. This brings to reserve total to £4.8 million.
Staff cost Her Majesty £20.3 million last year, an increase of £800,000. £2.7 million was made in pension contributions, but salaries cost £15.9 million. This total was the largest payment which consumed the SSG, and paid for 436 workers over the year (on average).
165 work for the Master of the Household, the largest department, which includes maids, footmen and chefs, and porters.
At the highest end of the pay scale, The Queen’s private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, earned £168,000 this year, while Keeper of the Privy Purse (essentially the Palace accountant, who authorises purchases etc) Sir Alan Reid was paid £128,000.
We all have them, including The Queen. This cost was £3.1 million for 2016/17, a decrease from the year before by a healthy £200,000.
Printing, postage and stationery took £1 million from the SSG.
For 97 receptions, 43 lunches, 7 garden parties, and 56 dinners at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, St. James’s Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Purse spent £2.2 million. More than half (£1.5 million) was spent on food and drink, the rest on laundry and cleaning.
THE DUCHY OF CORNWALL:
Prince Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall made £20.7 million, on which he paid £4.7 million tax. This income supports himself, Camilla, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, and Prince Harry in their official and private lives, save travel costs.
For the younger Royals, this equated to roughly £3.5 million last year.
State Visits, staff wages, duties such as the State Opening of Parliament, travel for The Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and the extended working Royal Family, the cost of the Royal wardrobe, as well as the upkeep of Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and Frogmore at Windsor are to be paid for with this money. It does not include supporting non-working Royals such as Princess Beatrice or Zara Tindall, nor any running costs for Balmoral or Sandringham (Her Majesty’s private property).
Sir Alan Reid, the Keeper of the Privy Purse, said of the figures: “It accounts for 65p per person per annum in the UK; that’s the price of a first class stamp. When you consider that against what The Queen does and represents for this country, I believe it represents excellent value for money.”
We, of course, believe that the Treasury acts only as an intermediary for the SSG, to show the transaction is correctly handled. Read more on these views here.
The Palace (Privy Purse) also pays tax on the income provided by the Duchy of Lancaster, The Queen’s estate.