By Vivienne Nunis
For the diamond jubilee year Queen Elizabeth received 31 million pounds of public money. This year she’ll have 36.1 million to maintain her palaces, pay her footman and travel to official engagements. Amid heavy government rhetoric about austerity the extra 5 million has angered many. Graham Smith leads the lobby group Republic.
“It is a change in the way they’re being funded, but that is still resulting in large amounts of money going to the monarchy that they don’t need.”
But others say the money is justified and it shouldn’t be seen as a paycheck made out to Queen Elizabeth II. Thomas Mace Archer Mills is the Chairman of the British Monarchist Society.
“The Queen is not being paid. This is how the official expense of Buckingham Palace is funded. This money is no way in shape or form going to her Majesty herself.”
He says, when it comes to austerity, the Queen has been leading the way.
“The Queen has been one of the most frugal people over the decades. These are times of austerity for a lot of people. However, the Queen has been under austerity for going on a decade without any sort of rise for over a decade. And that stems from Labor governments and even from the Conservatives government under John Major when he decommissioned Britannia, which was a Royal yacht, to save money. So Her Majesty has been doing an awful lot to reduce expenditure of the palace.”
The views on the streets of London were mixed.
“I think the work that she does promoting the Commonwealth and the county – yeah, that’s well worth within what’s being granted to her.”
“Considering the situation we’re in and how many people are getting their benefits cuts, realistically speaking, it’s not fair that one person should get a pay rise, when everyone else is suffering.”
“She’s representing the country. It’s probably ok.”
“I don’t agree.”
The sovereign grant will see the Queen paid 15% of the profit brought in by the Crown Estate, a property portfolio worth more than 8 billion pounds. It includes historic holdings like Regent Street and Ascot Racecourse, as well as commercial assets like shopping centers and agricultural land and about half of the U.K.’s foreshore. Last year profits were up to 214 million pounds, thanks in part to an increase in seabed rental from new wind farm developers.
But who owns the Crown Estate?
Technically, the reigning monarch does, but all management rights belong to the Crown Estate Commissioners who act like a company board and all profits get fed directly to HM Treasury. So the Crown Estate is like a big property business that aims to make money for the nation. But Graham Smith says many people wrongly believe the Queen owns the Crown Estate and she has a right to the profits it makes.
“It’s owned by the Crown and the Crown is now owned by the Royal Family. The Crown is part of the state. It’s in the gift to Parliament. So you know, the key test is – if you get rid of the monarchy, what happens to the Crown Estate? The answer is nothing. It would stay where it is and money will continue to flow to the state. So there’s no payback. The monarchy, the Royal Family aren’t given the Crown Estate money. They are simply taking money off us. And we’re not getting anything in return.”
He says there’s no justification for spending so much money on the Queen, especially at a time when so many public departments are facing cuts.
“I mean any other part of the public sector has to budget each year, has to justify how much money they need and what they want. With the monarchy they just given money arbitrarily, based on some arbitrary figure from the Crown Estate. There’s no logic to it. They’re simply trying to ensure that the monarchy can get as much money as they can get their hands on and not bother how they spend it.”
Thomas Mace Archer Mills from the British Monarchist Society takes the opposite view.
“This woman is working on behalf of the nation in whole. She’s the personification of the state. Any head of state costs money and, unfortunately, Her Majesty is one of the most underfunded government departments in our country. And that’s not fair for all that she does.”
The funding will be up to debate next year, when the government’s watch dog, the Public Accounts Committee, will, for the first time, investigate the way the Queen’s income is spent. Labor MP Austin Mitchell will be among those on the committee.
“We’re there to see how tax fare gets value for money. It is public money that and it’s right to look at how it’s spent.”
A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said the 36.1 million pounds, which the Queen will receive this financial year is 15% less in real terms than the Royal household’s expenditure 5 years ago.