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Queen Elizabeth II's costs bring criticism

Buckingham Palace says public funding for Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family cost British taxpayers the equivalent of $1.14 each last year.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Public funding for Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family cost British taxpayers the equivalent of $1.14 each last year, according to accounts published Monday.

The Queen's office said that the costs incurred by the royal family were $68.6 million in the year to March 31, an increase of $2.48 million from the previous year.

It means supporting the royal family cost British taxpayers an extra 5 cents each last year.

Public money is used to pay the costs of travel and operating and staffing homes used by the royal family, including the Queen's Buckingham Palace residence.

Sir Alan Reid, the Keeper of the Privy Purse — or treasurer to the royal household — said travel costs rose because fewer aircraft were available from the Royal Air Force, meaning that members of the royal family needed to charter commercial aircraft for overseas visits, often at short notice.

Figures showed that royal travel costs rose to $10.76 million from $10.26 million. The queen visited Slovenia and Slovakia last year, while Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, toured countries including Japan and Indonesia.

Thousands spent on new Web site
Officials said a $661,302 relaunch of the royal family's Web site in February, and hiring staff to run it also contributed to the increase in costs.

Graham Smith, campaign manager for Republic, an anti-monarchy group, said the costs can't be justified.

"Very obviously they have no regard for public finances at all. There's no reason why the queen can't be paid a salary and a few million be spent on the staff," Smith said.

The accounts showed that cleaning royal homes cost $496,000, food bills ran to $827,209 and garden parties cost a total of $661,302.

Costs of security for the royal family provided by the police and army are not included in the accounts.

They showed that the queen had to use money from a reserve fund to supplement the amount allocated to her by the government.

Queen likely to ask for increase
Under a deal agreed in 1991, the queen receives $13.09 million of public money each year to pay for basic expenditure, including the costs of staff. The accounts showed she used an extra $9.9 million from a reserve fund — built up over several decades by saving portions of her allocated budget.

Lawmakers and the queen will negotiate her budget again in 2010, when she's likely to ask for an increase in basic funding.

If the queen continues to use money from her reserve fund at the current rate, she'll run out of funds by 2012 — the year she celebrates her 60th year as Britain's monarch.