ANOTHER year, another inflation-busting increase in public money given to the Royal Family.
Perhaps inevitably, much of this week’s coverage of the royal accounts was taken up by how much Meghan and Harry ended up snaffling as they ran off to America, only to plead they had been “cut off financially”.
But the meat and drink of this gilded annual return is more scandalous.
A decade ago the taxpayer funded the Civil List, as the Sovereign Grant was called, to the tune of £7.9million. Now the net figure has ballooned to £85.9million.
That doesn’t even include the estimated £200million spent on security. No cap on Income Support for the royals.
The Palace has even managed to get the Government to agree that money for the royals each year can only ever go up or stay the same.
It can never go down. Last year the amount they got from the taxpayer went up by £3.5million, since you ask.
Nice work if you can get it. A Royal Mint for some, a National Debt for others.
The royal household’s spending hit £87.5million in 2020, up from £69.4million.
Such news always raises eyebrows — and foments anger. But in the year of Covid, when hard-working people found themselves furloughed, facing an uncertain future or just plain sacked, people would be right to feel somewhat insulted.
At a time when the nation is struggling to work out how to pay for social care for people who have worked hard all their lives, and when the NHS is under huge pressure, the royals are well and truly insulated.
Economise, it seems, is what other people do.
So last year, despite the fact that virtually all travel was grounded — Stay At Home, Save Lives, remember? — the royals still managed to splurge £3.2million on transport.
WINDSOR CASTLE FIRE
That included a near-£60,000 trip for Charles to visit Kuwait, a staggering £2.1million on HELICOPTERS and £48,000 on a nice train trip round the country.
Nearly £50million went on doing up all their various homes — driven by the gargantuan costs of improving Buckingham Palace.
Now we are paying £359million for a gold-plated, bells-and-whistles refurbishment of Buck House — a cost estimated by the Palace itself in 2008 to be £55million at top whack.
People have a great deal of respect for the Queen, a hard-working woman who serves her country tirelessly, and most want the monarchy to continue. Of course, that means paying for her.
But public tolerance of all this royal extravagance at our expense is wearing thin. Questions are inevitably asked.
Why is the Queen’s private secretary Sir Edward Young earning £220,000 — more than the Prime Minister?
Why is the taxpayer supporting more than 25 palaces and other substantial properties — not to mention the huge number of smaller tied residences controlled by the royals? Just how many palaces does one family need?
This must be the country’s biggest Housing Benefit bill.
This is not about whether we have a monarchy or not. It is about whether we have one that respects the need to live within the nation’s means. One that doesn’t take the Mickey.
Other monarchies manage this. The Danish, Spanish and Swedish cost millions less than ours does. And as things stand, that figure is only likely to mushroom further in years to come.
This is because, after pressure from the Palace, the Royal Family since 2011 now each year receives 25 per cent of the profits from the state-owned Crown Estate, which, despite its name, has been owned by the public since 1760.
The Queen is already coining it in with a windfall of around £500,000 from wind turbines erected on Crown Estates land.
But why? Every single penny of profit from the Crown Estates should end up where it belongs — in the public coffers.
So what is to be done?
Prince Charles has rightly said he wants a slimmed-down monarchy, and plans for that are almost certainly more advanced than they might let on. He will soon be King.
But that doesn’t just mean fewer people crowding out the balcony at Buckingham Palace.
It doesn’t just mean keeping Andrew out of sight and Harry and Meghan in California. It must mean a drastic cut to the amount of public money being handed to the royals each year.
It must mean the royals picking up at least half the bill for the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace. The royals took responsibility for refurbishing Windsor Castle after the 1992 fire.
It must mean using sched-uled flights, as Prince William and Kate have occasionally done, and timetabled trains.
TIME TO GIVE BACK
If they want to use private jets or helicopters, let them pay for them out of their own pockets.
And let’s be clear. Their pockets are deep. The Queen may have lost £10.6million last year as visitor numbers dried up during the pandemic, but skint she is not.
According to the Sunday Times Rich List last month Her Majesty’s wealth stands at £365million. This includes investments in mostly British shares which have risen strongly recently. The Royal Philatelic Collection, set up in 1864, is valued at £100million.
Charles is worth around £100million and there is no senior member of the Royal Family worth less than £20million.
Of course, this wealth hasn’t come from the Lottery or from a big win on the horses. It has come from the taxpayer over many years — as well as centuries of inherited wealth.
Well, it’s now time for the royals to give some of it back.
The Queen seems to get this and has promised to “tighten her belt”, whatever that means for a woman whose wardrobe includes a £3.7million crown.
Discussions continue about what the Sovereign Grant will look like when the current five-year agreement ends in 2022. A significant drop is the only acceptable solution.
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And the Queen would be well advised to accept this.
Because the greatest threat to the future of the monarchy comes not from the country’s republican contingent, but from the ordinary man and woman in the street.
From all of us who have had to tighten our belts and live within our means, and who look at all the royal excess and before long will say: Enough is enough.