At the time of writing, over one hundred thousand people had succumbed to the latest convulsion of faux outrage by signing a petition demanding that the Royal Family “pays for Palace renovation”. This refers to the recent decision by the Government to increase the payment allocated to the Royal Family via the Sovereign Grant to cover the £369 million cost of repairing Buckingham Palace, with no major renovation works having been carried out on the vital arteries of the Palace since the Second World War.
The issue with this petition is that it is either completely ignorant of how the Royal Family receives its income and how much is given to the state, or it has deliberately glossed over the facts in favour of pushing some nice easy click bait. So I’ll try and present the facts that have been omitted from this petition in an attempt to set the record straight.
First and foremost, Buckingham Palace isn’t actually a private residence that is owned by the Queen, or any other Monarch that resides in it. It is the property of the Crown Estate, which is required to give all of its revenue to HM Treasury. The Monarch of the day is allowed to reside in the Palace, but is also obliged to play host to hundreds of state functions every year and has been used by the Government on countless occasions as part of its strategy of “soft diplomacy” when looking to woo foreign leaders.
Secondly, the petition ignores the fact that the Crown Estate has already paid for the renovation many times over by way of their contributions to Government revenue. In fact, they’ve already paid for it six times over in the last ten years alone having paid £2.4 billion to the Treasury over that period. That’s money that’s gone towards paying for the NHS, schools and emergency services. In the last year alone, they handed over £304.1 million to the Exchequer.
Although the Monarch does receive some money back from the Crown Estate profits, this has been set at 15% of the profits of the Crown Estate by way of the Sovereign Grant. In other words, it is the equivalent to you or I handing over 85% of our income in taxes. But even then, the Sovereign Grant is expected to cover the cost of all official business carried out by the Queen, often on behalf of the Government you and I elect.
There should be no doubt that this work on the Palace is essential, but the key thing is that the Crown Estate will have handed over enough profit to the Government in less than two years to fully cover the cost of this necessary but temporary increase in the Sovereign Grant.
Let’s get off the back of our Queen and instead take pride in the fact the Crown Estate generates so much revenue for our vital public services every year and that this fantastic British building will be preserved for future generations- and Governments- to reap the benefits of its grandeur.
First published in The Huffington Post.