The Queen Mother is a dear indeed, but she's quite loose with the sterling. At least, that's what the first UK Parliamentary report about palace finances has found. The report, published Monday, warns Queen Elizabeth II that she's spending too much and needs to raise the income of the Windsor family in order to make ends meet. Talk about a Downton Abbey moment.
So, how much is too much? Well, try a tab of £44.9 million with an income of only £11.6 million. Just a little deficit — and the royal coffers for emergencies (not talking wardrobe ones here) is down to its last million pounds — a drop from its 2001 balance of £35 million.
A lot of the over-spending had, of course, to do with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee last year; the 60th anniversary of her reign that saw a lot of money spent on pomp and circumstance. But this year is year 61 and not very special at all — the budget is back to normal!
So how to fix the royal bank account? The Parliament had quite the harsh critique that involved a strongly-worded tsk-tsk, as well as a little tough love about how Liz is getting off far too easily:
It is not clear to us that the Treasury is sufficiently challenging in its scrutiny of the Household's financial affairs, or that the new funding arrangements sufficiently incentivise the Household to find greater efficiency savings. We are also concerned that the Household has reduced its balances to such an extent that it could be unable to cover its expenditure on any unforeseen events that might affect The Queen's programme. It needs to get a much firmer grip on how it plans to address its backlog of property maintenance.
But basically, the recommendations come down to everyone managing their money much better, as well as calls for more oversight in royal expenditures and pleas for the Queen to "do more with less" — just as, ahem, the rest of the government has to do right now. There's also the little matter of royal palaces falling into ruin: they are in need of some serious repair work — 39 percent of them, actually — and goodness knows no monarchy can run properly with crumbling castles.
As a result, the Queen's budget is down to £38.2 million this year (compared to £41.5 million last year, and we know how that went). That amounts to a per capita spend of about 62 pence (about 94 cents) per person per year in the UK.
The report suggests that tourism measures such as boosting visitor numbers at Buckingham Palace could help with income generation. (We're guessing they're not going to consider selling any property.)
"We think a little bit of a more commercial approach by those who are responsible for serving the queen would serve her better in garnering more income," House of Commons Public Accounts Committee Chair Margaret Hodge said, who also pointed out that the boiler at Buckingham is, um, as old as the Queen's reign itself.