LONDON – Like millions of her subjects, Queen Elizabeth II is going to have to make do and mend — cutting spending and putting off palace repairs as royal finances are squeezed by Britain’s budget crisis.
Accounts published Monday by Buckingham Palace reveal the total public cost of supporting the monarchy was 38.2 million pounds ($57.8 million) in the year to March 31, the equivalent of 62 pence (94 cents) per person. The total is more than 3 million pounds less than in 2008-2009.
Britain’s public sector is facing cuts as the government tries to eliminate a record deficit, and Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, said the royal household “is acutely aware of the difficult economic climate” and will be cutting costs and putting off essential maintenance.
The 84-year-old queen receives 7.9 million pounds ($12.3 million) of public money each year to pay for staff and other costs, an amount that has not risen in 20 years. The accounts show also drew an extra 6.5 million pounds ($9.8 million) from a reserve fund built up over the years by saving portions of her allocated budget.
If the queen continues to use money from her reserve at the current rate, the fund will run out by 2012 — the year she celebrates her 60th year on the throne.
She had been expected to ask for an increase in basic funding this year, but the government — which is bringing in deep cuts to welfare payments and spending programs — imposed a freeze until at least next year.
The accounts show the government spent more than 15 million pounds ($23.4 million) on the upkeep of royal residences including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and almost 4 million pounds ($6.2 million) on royal travel. Both amounts were down from the previous year.
Reid said the royal household would be cutting its property services budget by half a million pounds, “implementing a head count freeze and reviewing every vacancy to see if we can avoid replacement.”
He said “the necessary cuts in public expenditure will have an impact on the backlog of essential maintenance which it is hoped can be addressed in the longer term.”
“In the meantime, the household is continuing to pursue opportunities to reduce costs and generate income from the estate’s assets, including commercial lettings and management charges,” he said.
News of the royal cost-cutting did not satisfy the anti-monarchy group Republic, which held a protest outside Buckingham Palace on Monday.
Campaign manager Graham Smith said Britain’s monarchy was the most expensive in Europe, and “continues to waste many millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money when front line services are being threatened.”
“It’s time to slash the budgets without reservation or sentiment,” he said.