‘Hypocrisy’ over cost of royal spending, expert says

Dr Laura Clancy called for an independent body to produce the annual reports on royal finances.

Fiftieth anniversary of the Investiture of the Prince of Wales
Fiftieth anniversary of the Investiture of the Prince of Wales

The monarchy’s rise in spending is hypocritical and the true cost of the royal family could be as high as £345 million a year, an academic has warned.

Dr Laura Clancy, an expert on wealth inequality, described the jump in royal costs as “quite shocking”, after it was shown that the royal family cost the public £67 million during 2018-19 – up almost £20 million.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent £2.4 million of public funds on renovating their new home, Frogmore Cottage, royal figures showed.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Harry and Meghan have renovated their home, Frogmore Cottage (Chris Jackson/PA)

Dr Clancy, a lecturer in media and cultural studies at Lancaster University, told the Press Association: “It’s about the monarchy as a whole, as an institution, and I think there is a hypocrisy going on.

“They do all this work for charities, or about mental health, and then they’re spending all this public money.”

She added that it was not about particular members of the royal family, but the body itself.

“It’s not just the Queen and Meghan and Harry involved in that, there’s a whole staff in that process.”

Members of the royal family on the Buckingham Palace balcony
Members of the royal family on the Buckingham Palace balcony during Trooping the Colour celebrations (Yui Mok/PA)

Dr Clancy added: “At a time when inequalities in Britain and the world are growing and growing, we have these days where we worry about royal finances but then we forget about it – they should be part of a sustained conversation about what it means.

“Calling it Frogmore Cottage – it’s not a cottage in any traditional sense of that word.

“That’s part of the way of making it seem more acceptable and palatable.”

Dr Clancy said estimates suggested the true cost of the monarchy could be as high as £345 million a year.

“Even the increase that is quite shocking isn’t the full story. There’s much more money coming in,” she said.

“Republic (the pressure group) have estimated that the cost is more like £345 million in total.”

Dr Clancy said the accounts published by the royal household do not include the undisclosed police security bill for guarding the royals, or money spent by councils preparing buildings or food when hosting royal visits.

The Queen also receives an income from the Duchy of Lancaster.

“Even the Duchy of Lancaster and the Crown Estate, that land was taken through centuries of exploitation, extraction and conquest and was passed down and is now an ‘independent’ body,” Dr Clancy said.

“There’s still questions over who owns that – if that was taken from the public.”

She called for an independent body to produce the accounts, rather than the royal households themselves.

“It’s meant to encourage accountability, but if you’re producing a report on yourself there’s a way in which that can be spun,” she said.

Moves such as opening Buckingham Palace all year round, instead of only in the summer, would help raise extra funds, she suggested.

The rise of almost £20 million to £67 million during 2018-19 was due to work updating the decades-old services at Buckingham Palace and maintaining the occupied royal palaces.

The Core Sovereign Grant, which helps fund the work of the Queen and her household and pays for other activities such as official royal travel, increased by £3.6 million to £49.3 million.

The total Sovereign Grant for 2018-19 was £82.2 million, made up of a core grant of £49.3 million and an extra £32.9 million to help pay for the 10-year, £369 million refurbishment project at Buckingham Palace.

Sir Michael Stevens, Keeper of the Privy Purse, who is responsible for the monarchy’s accounts, said at a briefing on Monday: “The ten-year reservicing programme presents a unique opportunity for innovation and investment in one of the world’s most prestigious and iconic historic buildings, thereby preserving it for future generations.”

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