£1.14: the price we each pay for the royals
Is the royal family worth the money? The Queen’s taxpayer-funded costs rose last year. “The Firm” contributes vast sums to the UK’s economy. But many resent paying for it at all.
A bottle of Coca-Cola. A loaf of bread. A litre of petrol. About a quarter of a pint of beer. A medium portion of fries at McDonalds.
That is what the average British person spends every year through taxation to pay for the royal family.
The Firm’s tax-funded costs for the last year were released yesterday. The accounts show the public funds used by the Queen for official expenditures and duties rose from £41.9 million to £47.4 million (a rise of 13%).
A further £28.7 million was transferred to reserves — i.e. the money went to the family but has been put aside for spending at a later date.
That adds to a total of £76.1 million for the annual Sovereign Grant. There are 66.5 million people in the UK. That comes to an average of £1.14 per person.
So where does all this money go?
More than £4 million was spent on the first phase of improvements at Buckingham Palace, including the removal of old wiring. And £21.4 million went towards payroll costs — paying the staff who work at the royal residences.
The accounts also show an increase in travel costs. Prince Charles’s November tour of India and the Far East was the most expensive trip, costing £362,149.
No taxpayer money was spent on the royal wedding, except indirectly on things like security.
The royal finances are complex. Currently, the Queen’s income comes from three sources: the Sovereign Grant; the Privy Purse, which is passed down from monarch to monarch; and income from the Queen’s personal investments.
Separate figures show that last year the Crown Estate provided £329.4 million to the Treasury. Yet the debate still rages over whether the royal family is worth the money.
The royal family do contribute a significant amount to the economy by attracting tourists and media to the UK. This number could be as much as £1.76 billion every year, according to a report by Brand Finance, but an exact figure is very hard to nail down.
But many remain uneasy about funding the royal family through taxation. Are they right?
“Why should this hub of wealth and privilege receive one penny of public money?” ask many. The monarchy does not need tax money to draw in tourism. In fact, it does not even need to exist: just look at how many people visit the Palace of Versailles in France. The royal family is a waste of money.
Utter rubbish, reply monarchists. When compared with other government expenditure, £76.1 million is a drop in the ocean. It is absurdly petty to be angry about a rise of about 8p per person. And what a dreary way to think about the monarchy this is. The importance of this ultimate symbol of Britain cannot be boiled down to an economic cost-benefits analysis.
- Would you mind paying £1.14 a year for the royal family?
- Will Britain still have a royal family in 100 years?
- Who is your favourite living member of the royal family? Write a list of three things that make them a good member of the royal family.
- Think of something that would also cost the government roughly £76.1 million. Write 500 words on whether it would be better value for money than the royal family.
Some People Say...
“As far as we’re concerned, within our family unit we are a normal family.”Prince Charles
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- The Queen’s taxpayer-funded costs rose by 13% last year to £47.4 million. A further £28.7 million was transferred to reserves to be spent in the coming years. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall carried out 619 UK engagements last year, while the Queen undertook 154, down from 162 the previous year. We know that sites connected with the royal family are key to Britain’s tourist industry.
- What do we not know?
- How much — if at all — the monarchy helps the British economy. According to Full Fact, the estimate of £1.76 billion “is largely subjective depending on what factors you think should or shouldn’t be included,” and that the Brand Finance report “estimates the monarchy contribute £50 million towards the media industry by providing the inspiration and and ‘mystique’ for TV shows like The Crown”.
- Sovereign Grant
- The sovereign grant is usually based on 15% of the net profits made by the Crown Estate. But it was increased this year to 25% to help cover the cost of renovations to Buckingham Palace.
- Improvements at Buckingham Palace
- In March last year, MPs approved plans to spend £369 million on refurbishing the Queen’s London residence. The work is expected to take around 10 years, and officials say it is necessary in order to avoid “catastrophic building failure”.
- Queen’s personal investments
- These are things that are owned by the Queen herself — not by the Sovereign in general. Estimates of the Queen’s personal wealth vary.
- Crown Estate
- A collection of lands and holdings in the United Kingdom that belong to the British monarch as an independent entity.
- Palace of Versailles
- The former residence of French monarchs. It is located just outside Paris.