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Monday, June 28, 1999 Published at 23:56 GMT 00:56 UK


Royals make £5m spending cuts

Palace and transport costs are down to £28.6m a year

The royal family has saved more than £5m on travel and the upkeep of its palaces over the past year, with costs cut from £33.7m to £28.6m.

The cuts were announced in the royal household's annual reports on royal grants-in-aid (government grants) for travel and property services.

Most of the £5m savings were made in travel, the budget for which was cut by £4.5m to £12.8m in the year to 31 March 1999.

[ image: Windsor Castle: Restoration work has been completed]
Windsor Castle: Restoration work has been completed
Almost £3m was saved by replacing two ageing RAF Royal Squadron Wessex helicopters with one Sikorsky S76 helicopter, leased and operated directly by the royal household.

Fewer trips on the royal train and a reduction in the number of its coaches led to a £350,000 drop in costs to £811,000.

Royal travel costs have fallen by 36% in real terms since the travel budgets were first published two years ago, the report said.

Electricity bills slashed

Meanwhile, spending on the eight occupied royal palaces - Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace, Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace, Clarence House, Marlborough House Mews, and Hampton Court Royal Mews and Royal Paddocks - was reduced by £600,000 to £15.8m.

[ image: Utility bills are down by 36% over the past seven years]
Utility bills are down by 36% over the past seven years
The report said that the cost of maintaining the palaces has been reduced by 46% in real terms since it was first published in 1991.

Royal electricity bills have been cut by 36.8%, gas bills are down by 29.7% and water bills down by 65.9% over the last seven years, the report said.

It added that the target annual budget of £15m by the end of the century should now be achieved.

The report also said that the royal household has six major projects in progress:

  • A new visitor centre at Windsor Castle, due for completion in July
  • An enlarged Queen's gallery and modernised kitchen areas at Buckingham Palace, completion date 2002 (costs for both of the above to be met from entrance fees to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace)
  • A picture conservation studio converted from outbuildings in Windsor Home Park
  • Completion of fire compartmentation across the Estate
  • Completion of external fabric repairs at St. James's Palace
  • Rewiring of Clarence House (for fire safety reasons) and related work.

The royal household official with responsibility for grants-in-aid, Sir Michael Peat, said the reports showed positive results.

Response to public criticism

"Costs continue to reduce, a number of exciting projects are in course and the buildings have never been in better condition," he said. "In short, another satisfactory year."

The royal household took over responsibility for spending on the palaces in 1991, and on travel in 1997, from the various government departments which provide the funds.

The move was made in response to public criticism of the royal lifestyle, in an effort to both cut costs and improve accountability and transparency.

The grant-in-aid for royal travel is given by the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions for official air and rail travel.

The grant-in-aid for the upkeep of the palaces is given by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Other Royal funding comes from a grant-in-aid for communications and information, the Civil List, and income from private sources.

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