Kensington Palace revamp for William and Kate to cost £1m

The Queen’s accounts show that the cost of the royal family to the taxpayer — excluding security costs, which are not disclosed — rose to £33.3m in her Diamond Jubilee year.

Note: This article is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Kensington Palace revamp for Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to cost £1m” was written by Caroline Davies, for guardian.co.uk on Thursday 27th June 2013 16.18 UTC

The public cost of refurbishing the Kensington Palace apartment that will be the new home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will be £1m, the Queen’s accounts reveal.

Once home to Princess Margaret, until she died in 2002, apartment IA – a 21-room abode over four storeys – has since been used as office and storage space. About £600,000 is going on removing asbestos; a further £400,000 has been spent on repairing and renewing the roof.

The apartment has recently been used by Historic Royal Palaces, a charity which looks after a number of royal residences.

Kensington Palace, or “the aunt heap”, as the Duke of Windsor referred to it in a nod to its reputation as a home for supposedly “hard-up” royal relations, became a palace when William of Orange bought it in 1689, and was improved and extended by Sir Christopher Wren.

At one stage Margaret and her husband, Lord Snowdon, jazzed it up with a pink, turquoise and orange scheme. It has since been gutted and is being completely refitted now. Its 21 rooms include a drawing room, staff quarters and nursery.

On Thursday Buckingham Palace launched a robust defence of the Queen’s funding after it emerged that through the government’s new system for financing the monarchy she is to receive a multimillion-pound increase over the next two years.

Under the sovereign grant, calculated as 15% of the profits of the crown estate, the Queen will receive £37.89m from the state next year, a 5% increase on this year’s grant of £36.1m and more than £5m more than her £32.3m expenditure in 2011/12.

A day earlier the spending review presented by George Osborne, the chancellor, outlined cuts of £11.5bn and included new limits on state welfare.

A royal aide said the palace did not feel uncomfortable with the raise and said the funds would be used to tackle a massive backlog of building repairs that would take 10 years to clear.

But the aide said he knew it could be described as unfortunate timing, and lead to unfavourable coverage. He added: “If there is a day’s discomfort [arising from Osborne’s statement] we just have to live with it. We can’t manage the timing.”

Introduced in April last year, the sovereign grant is a single payment replacing the civil list and grant-in-aid for building maintenance and travel costs. It is designed to make the monarchy more self-sufficient. The amount given to the Queen is based on funds two years in arrears.

Profits from the crown estate, which is one of the largest property owners in Britain, rose by 5.2% to £252.6m. Most of the profits go to the Treasury.

The official said the cost of the monarchy had been reduced by 80% over 20 years, with savings including the scrapping of the royal yacht Britannia.

A total of 360 buildings are maintained by the sovereign grant, and for years the previous grant-in-aid for the royal palaces was pegged at £15m.

Priorities now include renovating at least half of the lead roofs at Windsor Castle and replacing the roof on the picture gallery at Buckingham Palace and that of the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore, which has been closed to the public since 2007 for safety reasons.

Buckingham Palace also requires replacement wiring and pipework, which could provide an opportunity for redecoration. The state rooms have not been redecorated during the Queen’s 60-year reign, the aide said.

Sir Alan Reid, keeper of the privy purse, said that Osborne had driven “a very hard bargain” when the government introduced the sovereign grant insisting that the palace be given £31m, which was £5m less than the previous year’s sum in civil list and grant-in-aid. He said the royal household had achieved a real-terms reduction of 24% over the last five years.

Controls over the grant let the chancellor renegotiate on a five-yearly basis the percentage of crown estate profits given to the Queen. The next renegotiation is due in 2015/16.

Buckingham Palace is not permitted to build up a reserve of more than 0.5% of one year’s sovereign grant. Palace accounts are open to scrutiny by the National Audit Office.

Asked whether the prime minister supported the increase in the Queen’s funding, a No 10 spokesman said: “I don’t think the prime minister disagrees with that process.”

The campaign group Republic called on the Queen to hand back the boosted funds. It pointed out that the deal struck by the government two years ago did not allow royal funding to fall but to rise year-on-year in line with crown estate profits.

“We said from the start that this was a bad deal for the taxpayers and no way to fund a public institution. Clearly we were right,” said Graham Smith, Republic’s chief executive. “As everyone else is seeing cuts to services and jobs, it is unbelievable that our head of state will sit silently by as she is handed millions more in public money.”

He added: “The crown estate is not, and never has been, the personal property of the royals. The Windsors have no more right to its revenue than I do.”

The Queen’s accounts show that the cost of the royal family to the taxpayer – excluding security and protection costs, which are not disclosed – rose by £900,000 to £33.3m in her diamond jubilee year.

The cost of the Queen’s “cleaning, laundry and other” was £700,000, up from £500,000 the previous year, and the gas bill rose £300,000 to £1m. Salary costs rose from £17.5m to £18.3m after staff, on a three-year pay, got a “little” rise to boost morale in the diamond jubilee year. About 20% only of the staff belong to a union.

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