Make more, spend less.
That’s the basic message from U.K. legislatures to Queen Elizabeth and her royal staff. A parliamentary report released today revealed that the queen's finances are far from healthy; the royal reserve fund for emergencies is down to its last million pounds ($1.6 million), while 39 percent of the royal estate remains in disrepair.
The report reads like a frustrated father disciplining a prodigal child: “We are 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 program. It needs to get a much firmer grip on how it plans to address its backlog of property maintenance.”
While the queen is far from broke -- the emergency fund is simply one of many royal financial and real estate holdings -- the fund's depletion points to overarching financial mismanagement by her household.
“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,” committee chair Margaret Hodge told the BBC.
Last year, the queen received 31 million pounds ($51 million) in taxpayer money, The Washington Post reported. And news of rampant royal overspending comes during the fifth consecutive year that the average U.K. worker’s income has fallen. As the country faces tough austerity measures, slashing benefits and other government programs in attempt to balance the national budget, legislatures urge the queen’s household to adopt similar tactics.
While the queen’s household increased its income in recent years (up from 6.7 million pounds in 2007-08 to 11.6 million pounds in 2012-13), legislatures advise that more needs to be done to cut costs.
Since 2007, the queen’s household has maintained a staff of 430. “The Household told us its staffing has stayed at very much the same level to enable it to maintain the same level of activity for The Queen's program,” the report reads. Legislatures, however, aren’t having any of it. “This contrasts with the public sector, which has cut staffing over this period while being expected to increase efficiency and deliver greater activity with fewer staff.”
And lawmakers also feel that more can be done to increase the royal income. In 2012-13, for instance, Buckingham Palace was open to visitors a total of 78 days, receiving over half a million visitors. The parliamentary report suggests more revenue could be generated if the Palace was open more each year.
“Other historic buildings, for example, the Palace of Westminster, are open to visitors for longer periods through the year than Buckingham Palace, despite Parliamentary activities taking place at the Palace of Westminster at the same time,” the report reads.
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