Thursday, June 23, 2005

Palace: British Royals 'A Good Value'

LONDON - British taxpayers paid the equivalent of $1.12 each last year to support
Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family, a "good value" as far as monarchies go, Buckingham Palace said Wednesday.

The palace, which has been under political pressure to control costs in recent years, said in its annual summary that the senior royals' expenses totaled the equivalent of $67.1 million in the fiscal year ending March 31.

That is down 0.3 percent from the previous year. Considering inflation, spending was down 2.3 percent, the palace said.

"We believe this represents a value-for-money monarchy. We're not looking to provide the cheapest monarchy. We're looking at one of good value and good quality," said Alan Reid, keeper of the privy purse, the official responsible for royal finances.

Significant savings had been made on insurance and through a property tax rebate on Buckingham Palace, Reid said. The royals were refunded the equivalent of more than $1.83 million from a local council for taxes paid on the central London property after successfully winning an appeal against a large tax increase in 2000.


The royal family spent more money in the past year on employing staff, hosting receptions for visiting heads of state, ceremonial occasions and overseas tours.

The queen visited France and Germany and hosted visits from the presidents of Poland, France and
South Korea.

Buckingham Palace spent $4 million throughout the year on catering and hospitality, $914,600 of which went to hosting six garden parties attended by about 39,000 people.

Royal travel expenses amounted to $9.15 million compared to $7.05 million in the 2003-2004 financial year.

Prince Charles' chartered plane trip to Sri Lanka, Australia and Fiji in February cost nearly $548,760, while $1.3 million was spent on the royal train, on which the queen and her family took 19 journeys.

Ian Davidson, a governing Labour Party lawmaker from Scotland, said spending on the royal train, made up of nine coaches including sleeping and office quarters, was a "gross extravagance."

"It costs far, far more to travel by royal train than by any other method. There is no justification as far as I can see for the extravagance of the royal train," Davidson told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

The Sunday Times Rich List of 2004 estimated the Queen's worth at $457 million. The estimate only covers the queen's residences at Balmoral and Sandringham which are actually held in her name, her stamp collection, private jewelry collection and a portfolio of private investments. It does not include castles, palaces, art collections or the crown jewels which are held by her in trust to be passed on to successors.

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