RED PENNIES: Who Really Pays Royal Bills

The Queen, Royal Finances and the Sovereign Support Grant.

June is the month of the year which sees the Royal Household release its annual Statement of Accounts, and how the Sovereign Support Grant (SSG) has been spent. The 2016/2017 statement has acknowledged a change to future SSG funding in regard to the newly approved £369M refurbishment of Buckingham Palace over the next 10 years. The approved works at Buckingham Palace will be met by the SSG which is based on the profits of the Crown Estate and not derived from revenue of the tax generating efforts of the government. The 2016/2017 financial year saw the Palace receive £42.8 million – a rise of £3 million over the 2015/2016 fiscal year. This rise in expenditure was based on the rise of funding provided to the Palace due to the Sovereign Support Grant equation (two years in arrears) which was based on 2014/2015 Crown Estate revenues of £304.1 million. The total expense for the year of Her Majesty as Head of State came to £56.8 million, with additional funding generated by letting out properties and rooms for events. Income supplementing the grant amounted to £14.9 million (up from £13.9 million in 2015/16). This is also the time of year where anti-monarchist organisation ‘Republic’ pipes up, demonstrating the use of its forked tongue, demanding the ‘unjust’ and ‘expensive’ institution of Monarchy be dismantled in favour of an elected Head of State to create a United Republic of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

We put forth the question: Does the taxpayer really fund the Monarchy?

Numerous publications and media outlets state that The Queen is paid for by the British taxpayer, but this is not correct. This article will explain why (much to Republic’s displeasure) that our Monarchy is extraordinary value for money when compared with other Presidencies and Monarchies across the globe. The Palace (not The Queen) receives a Sovereign Support Grant payment each year, out of which Her Majesty pays for the upkeep of the Palaces she inhabits (Windsor and Buckingham) and her 400+ members of staff. In 2016/17 The Palace received £42.8 million for Her Majesty to carry out her official work as Head of State as opposed to the last two annual fiscal reports (2014/15 and 2015/16) which had shown a £0 increase in Palace funding for those two years. In 2016/2017 a slight increase in spending was undertaken. This increase went towards property maintenance, payroll costs and an additional £0.9 million transferred into the Sovereign Grant Reserve. The regular monitoring of performance has led to a real efficiency savings of 10% from 2009 to 2013, and through overall reductions in staff costs, travel and hospitality over the years, the real reduction in costs is 50% over the past 20 years. This certainly sounds like good value for money to us, but let us carry on!

Since Royal finances can be a little complicated, here is a brief explanation of how it is worked out to the figure that Her Majesty receives in the form of the SSG. ‘The Queen receives 15 per cent of the profits from the Crown Estate, but from funds two years in arrears,’ says the Telegraph. The Crown (not the Monarch) is the legal owner of the Crown Estate, and so currently The Queen is its proprietor. However, she does not run the estate. Most importantly, the Government does not own the Crown Estate either – it is run by an independent board, The Crown Estate Commissioners, who decide how the estate and its properties are managed; they do not consult The Queen. All profits from The Crown Estate are deposited into (given over) to H.M. Treasury, and the Palace receives its monetary payment directly from the Chancellor of The Exchequer. This payment The Palace receives is 15% of the amount the Crown Estate already pays in to cover this expenditure. It is important to understand that a deposit has been made into H.M. Treasury before any payments are made to the Palace in the form of the SSG. Therefore, it seems clear that the Chancellor and H.M. Treasury are merely acting as intermediaries for this transaction, to show that the Government is (minimally) involved in the funding of The Palace, and that the movement of funds is being properly regulated according to law. This, therefore, means that the Monarchy does not cost the taxpayer a single red penny! Acknowledging the cost of repairs to Buckingham Palace, a 10% rise in the SSG was approved by Parliament in early 2017, to pay for the £369 million of repairs needed at Buckingham Palace. This means the Royal Purse will receive a total of 25% of Crown Estate profits from 2017 to 2027. Next year, the Sovereign Support Grant will be £76.1 million. With this, it is proven that the tax generated revenue witin public coffers is not used to fund the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace or the official workings of our Head of State.

Of course, this formula could be made less confusing and easier to administer, if the Crown Estate would deduct the SSG payment from its profits and turn the funds over directly to The Palace before the remaining profits are given to H.M. Treasury. This would alleviate the participation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and help greatly to reduce the misconception that public funds are being used to fund the Monarchy and its activities.

In fact, The Palace pays tax on this 15% income payment, therefore adding to the tax revenue collected for public benefit. In addition to the taxes already paid by The Queen, The Palace (Privy Purse) also pays tax on the income provided by the Duchy of Lancaster which also helps to off-set official Palace expenditure. This arrangement means that 85% of profits from the Crown Estate are gifted to the Treasury, and is disseminated into public spending departments such as the N.H.S., and the welfare system. This past fiscal year, the amount given by The Crown Estate to H.M. Treasury was a whopping £258,485,000 to be spent for the benefit of the people. Without this payment to the treasury, the government would have to find other means to offset such a disappearance of funds from its budget. More than likely such efforts to remedy this situation would see the government levy taxes on the public. Over the last ten years, The Crown Estate has paid more than £2.4 billion into the Treasury for public use. This pales in comparison to the money which is allocated to fund the official expense of the Monarchy.

In 2010 the Telegraph admitted that the Civil List’s (old Royal Finance system also linked to the profits of the Crown Estate) ‘£35.1 million is dwarfed by the £226.5 million profit passed to H.M. Treasury by the Crown Estate’. The Crown Estate and its workings are not widely known by the British public. Here is a little more on the Crown Estate and its unique status as a public body, taken from its website:

  • ‘Firstly, we are a net contributor to the nation’s finances, each year sending our profit to the Treasury for the benefit of the nation.
  • Secondly, whilst we work with the grain of government policy, we are not a delivery vehicle for government policy. So, we are not a quango in this sense.
  • Thirdly, we are a fully independent organisation with a separate legal identity and accounts. The Treasury is our sponsor department, but we are separate from them. Our role is set out in the Crown Estate Act 1961 and not by the government of the day.’

The Queen herself (as a private individual) receives a personal income from The Duchy of Lancaster, an estate which dates back centuries. While the Duchy does not pay tax, the income receivable by the Privy Purse is taxable, after the deduction of official expenditure – thus The Queen is still paying into the Treasury, and not taking a taxpayer’s penny out of it as many like to think. The Queen has paid tax on this income since 1993. However, it must be made clear that The Queen does not take a salary for her work as Monarch.

The cost of official travel for the Royal Family undertaken for official working duties is also taken from the SSG payment – this was £4.5 million, an increase of £500,000 over the costs from 2015/2016 due to the increased price of petrol and a higher number of engagements, which includes the cost of the The Queen’s Helicopter Flight (the Royal helicopter), the Royal Train, and the use of motors for Royal engagements. The total cost of travel factored into this expense is for all members of the Royal Family on official business, including travel between residences e.g Windsor to Buckingham Palace. Private holidays and outings etc are not included in this figure. The month of April 2015 saw the Royal Mews in Buckingham Palace being taken over by Palace accounts, from the Metropolitan Police.

The Royal Train was used on 14 occasions in 2016/17 and is used only by The Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles. It costs between £800,000 and £900,000 a year to run, and a Palace official offered, “although not the cheapest way” of travelling for the senior Royals, it was better in terms of safety, security and convenience for them. Of course, this prevents the need for a police convoy the entire journey which adds to travel expense, and it appears to be ‘greener’ than road travel, being described as having a ‘strong’ environmental aspect as the Royal train runs on bio-diesel. Every journey by a member of the Royal family is authorised by The Queen, and she may veto expensive travel. Royals usually travel business class, not first.

The Duke of Edinburgh is the only other member of the Royal Family (besides The Queen) directly to receive money for official expenditure; a parliamentary annuity of £359,000 per annum paid by the Sovereign Support Grant. Under the Civil List, other members of the Royal Family were given allowances for their work. By 2002 there were eight recipients of parliamentary annuities, receiving a combined total of £1.5 million per annum. After 1993 and prior to 2012, when the SSG replaced the Civil List, The Queen voluntarily refunded the cost of these annuities to the Treasury. Today, Her Majesty spends over £1,254,000 of her own money to support members of her family carrying out engagements on her behalf. This expense is met from her personal income and not the SSG.

Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse (in control of Royal finances), said in 2014 that figures have shown that Royal funding had fallen by eight per cent in the last two years, when maintenance costs of Palaces were removed. Her Majesty is known to prefer simple living; if she had the choice, she would probably live in a smaller house, like Sandringham. However, as Sovereign, it is tradition to live at Buckingham Palace, and grand historic buildings such as these require upkeep. Of course, upkeep and maintenance on such important and historic buildings is expensive! Regardless whether or not our Head of State resided in these buildings, they would still have to be looked after and kept in proper working and functional order as historically significant establishments. But since Her Majesty resides in the Palaces, she ‘is expected to pay for the upkeep of the occupied palaces using money she is paid from the Sovereign Grant’.

It was intitally estimated that £50 million was needed to secure the buildings, with Palace spending on property maintenance rising by £4.2 million in 2014; this included removing asbestos from Buckingham Palace and renewing the lead roof of the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. It was further reported that staff were using buckets to protect art and antiquities from the water coming in. The SSG report in 2014/2015 had since increased this estimate to £150 million in urgent repairs – for Buckingham Palace alone. £13.3 million was spent on maintenance of buildings in 2014/15 a decrease of £0.2 million (1.5%); £2.2 million has therefore been transferred to the Sovereign Grant Reserve for future use of repairs and maintenance. 2% less was spent on staff in 2013/14, and 7% less was spent on travel, to help pay for these necessary repairs, as the SSG would not cover all the work needed for the repair of these buildings. Last year the Sovereign Support Grant had shown an increase in property maintenance to £16.3 million befoe it was agreed by Parliament that a new assessment of needed repairs would be undertaken with works aproved to the total of £369 million.

Professor Matthijs of Ghent University praised the British Monarchy in 2012 as one of the most open about its financesNadine Dorries, M.P., has said: ‘What I am totally against is this out-and-out yearly attack of the Royal Family because of who they are. ‘They are great for Britain, the British people love them. I actually felt quite embarrassed listening to Margaret Hodge reel off the list of repairs that need doing to the royal buildings that we have not funded as a country, because what the Royal Family does for us is beyond explanation.’

Not convinced by this argument? Not only does the Royal Family work hard, they are great value for money, and here are the figures to prove it:

In 2009, the Polish President cost his people 153 million złotych (£26.1 million).  In a similar role to The Queen, the President heads the armed forces, but has a say in foreign policy, and nominates the head of the central bank. The president can initiate and veto new legislation, too. Poland is a smaller nation, with a population of around 38 million, just over half that of the UK, and costs approx. two-thirds of that of our Monarchy.

The German President holds a similar role to The Queen – he has emergency powers to be used in a time of political crisis, and is the figurehead of the German Republic. In 2010, the President employed 167 members of staff; the President had two state-funded homes (Villa Hammerschmidt in Bonn, and Schloß Bellvue in Berlin), a plane for his sole use, a helicopter, and three cars and a chauffeur. Presidents are also paid a salary of €199,000 per year (£140,000). The total cost of the German Presidency was, officially, €4.6 million (£3.26 million) in 2010. But this figure does not include the €18 million (£12.7 million) the Bundestag sets aside for personnel and administration costs. A 2012 figure shows that the office of the president costs taxpayers €30 million (£21.2 milllion), and €32 million in 2014. Former German Presidents are also supported by the State after they leave office, for the rest of their lives – this costs the Germans another €2 million per year (£1.4 million). Can you name the current German President?

So, The Queen, who employs 436 household staff, spent £20.3 million from the 2016/2017 SSG on payroll. She pays almost three times as many staff (who get accommodation in central London and meals, do not forget) from the money she is allocated, not from a Government budget. The staffing expense from the SSG of 2015/2016 stood at £19.5million thus showing an increase for staff expense for the current report. £2.7 million was made in pension contributions, but salaries cost £15.9 million for this fiscal year. This total was the largest payment which consumed the SSG. Out of 436 staff, 165 work for the Master of the Household, the largest department, which includes maids, footmen and chefs, and porters. At the highest end of the pay scale, The Queen’s private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, earned £168,000 this year, while Keeper of the Privy Purse (essentially the Palace accountant, who authorises purchases etc) Sir Alan Reid was paid £128,000.

The Austrian President, a similar figurehead of a much smaller nation, earns €328,000 per year (£232,000). Staff and ‘other expenses’ cost an additional of €7.6 million euros (£5.3 million) in 2012, which include ‘entertainment expenses’.  Do you know what the Austrian President looks like? The Queen spends approximately £2.1 million on Garden Parties, which acknowledge charitable work and organisations for their contributions, not for the Royals to have a good time. This number also includes banquets and other hosting events, again saving money for the Government.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy led something of a lavish lifestyle as Head of State. In 2010 he set an annual budget for his establishment at €110 million (£90 million). In 2012, Sarkozy had 121 cars in his garage, with insurance costs of £100,000 and fuel bills of £275,000 a year; he also has an Airbus A330, on which he spent £215 million to refit, having only commissioned it, along with two smaller aircraft, in 2009, to the tune of £240 million. Where is Mr. Sarkozy today? Later in 2012, it was reported that the most expensive Head of State in Europe was Francois Hollande, with the annual cost of the Elysée Palace reaching £87.2 million.

In contrast to Sarkozy’s outlandish spending, The Queen has the Royal Helicopter, the Royal Train, and a small fleet of cars which is funded from the SSG. There are eight State limousines (two Bentleys, three Rolls-Royces and three Daimlers) and a handful of people carriers. Some of these State cars were gifted to The Queen, and so were not purchased from the Privy Purse. Most of the fleet is collectible and antique, as they were used by the Royal Family in the 1930s and 1940s. The Range Rovers Her Majesty drives and is seen in are funded from her personal income.

The Labour Union in Italy released figures in 2013 that revealed the Italian Presidency uses €228 million (£161.9 million) of public money, with most Italians believing their politicians are corrupt. What is also clear about The Queen as Head of State is that people flock to see her. Crowds always line the route Her Majesty will take, and come with their Union Flags and cameras to get a glimpse of The Queen close-up. The German President (Joachim Gauck – we had to look it up too) certainly does not generate the same feelings of excitement that The Queen does. Despite all of the perks of continental Presidencies, not one of them carries with it the world-wide fame and recognition of our Queen.

The Dutch King and Queen receive a salary for their work, as does their daughter, The Princess of Orange (she is 12 years old). They are not subject to tax. King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands earns a salary of €825,000 per year (£593,000), with a poll showing most think he should earn between €250,000 to €500,000. Queen Maxima also earns a wage for her Royal work, and The Princess of Orange is also entitled to a stipend. Any Dutch Royal who receives a stipend is exempt from taxes on the stipend and their assets. The Dutch Royals are further supported by the government, paying €5.72 million for the Royal household at the Hague, and they are paid €26.8 million (£19 million) to support their work and engagements on top of their salary.

Once again, Her Majesty, The Queen does not earn a salary for the years of hard work she has performed for this nation. She and her family undertake thousands of engagements each year on behalf of the people of The United Kingdom. Our Royal family, who in 2016 carried out 2,975 domestic engagements, with a further 750 abroad, continuously keep the Monarch connected to her people. 2015, the year in which Her Majesty became the longest reigning Sovereign in British history saw the Royal family carry out a total of 3,741 official engagements. In 2014 there were 4,089 engagements carried out by 15 members of the Royal Family, as seen in the Court Circular.

The U.S. President is the Head of Government in America, as well as the Head of State. President Trump has decided to forego receiving a presidential sized pay-cheque of $400,000.00 per annum. From a fiscal point of view it is beneficial for him not to take the salary due to the American tax system regarding opportunities relating to income tax deduction for top tier earners. On Federal Election Commission forms when running for President, Donald Trump reported his 2015 income to be in excess of $557 million. With such a vast annual income a Presidential stipend is a trifle; however, this has not stopped him from charging his presidential expenses to the public purse and the expenses he has charged to the public purse are already astronomical just for his first 100 days in office.

First Lady, Melania Trump and her son, Baron, have decided not to move to Washington D.C. until after his school term finishes, in favour of continual residence within their $100 million pent house apartment in Trump Tower, New York City. The cost of securing the building for the First Lady and Baron Trump, as well as the airspace around their residence is reported to be costing a whopping $5 million plus per month and this excludes the costs incurred when they travel with the President to Mar a Lago and visit him in Washington D.C. In addition to this expense, White House security guarding the President and the other members of his family in the nation’s capital pushes this figure further up the chart. President Trump has visited his Palm Beach Estate several times, where the cost of travel on Airforce One for weekend jaunts to play golf is costing the American taxpayer a fortune. By February 2017 President Trump had cost the American taxpayer just over £11 million (£9.1m) with Palm Beach visits and the cost of his eldest son’s business trips. An additional cost to the local taxpayers of Palm Beach has reached $360,000.00 since the President first visited in late January. As of Easter this year, President Trump has visited his Florida home seven out of the thirteen weekends he has been President. To add to the skyrocketing cost of the Trump Presidency, the President has conveniently appointed members of his family and his trusted business circle as his closest advisers; complete with government mobile phones, security clearance, government offices and all the perks associated with belonging to the American government.

In the months leading up to the last American election, an expose claimed that the Obama family had cost the taxpayer in terms of security, travel and other expenses associated with their station over the past eight years, $1.4 billion dollars = approx. £888,479,000. Now assuming this to be true, and factoring in the difference in population of the U.S. to the U.K., this is equivalent to £176,959,000 being spent on the Head of State. ($1,4,000,000,000 = approx. £888,479,000. The American population is just under 5 times larger than that of the United Kingdom and so this figure was divided by 4.7 to get £188.8 million).

Not only this, but President Obama had the use of an armoured limousine, 35 military helicopters for his transport, two Air Force One planes (which he must take for official long-haul travel) and the use of Camp David, Maryland, as a secure second home. President Trump was furnished with a new convoy of armoured limousines costing around $15 million and a budget to redecorate areas of the White House for once he took up occupancy within the residence. Not only this, but Presidents since 2001 earn $400,000 per year, as well as having a $50,000 non-taxable expense allowance. His salary is, however, taxable. When retired, Presidents will take a pension of around $199,700 (£126,000), and can draw a Congressional pension too, if he served in Congress. They are provided with travel funds and franking privileges (letter stamping costs). The Presidential family are also entitled to protection by the Secret Service until the death of the former President. There are currently five former Presidents who are entitled to this income and treatment. The U.S. President also uses Blair House, opposite the White House, to accommodate foreign Heads of State should they visit Washington. The Queen who is the Head of State of sixteen nations in total is not afforded such increased security luxury convoys and opens her own home to visiting foreign counterparts with a suite of rooms at Buckingham Palace, where there is already space, staff and provisions available, cutting costs for the British Government. Her Majesty does not have her own plane and when traveling long-haul, uses a chartered commercial aircraft from British Airways. Do you still think that the British Monarchy is expensive?

Now we move on to tourism, which is another area that Republic insist would still be as high with an elected Head of State. WRONG. In 2014 visits to Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Holyroodhouse, and Clarence House totalled 2.58 million paying visitors, which is a 6.6% rise on 2013. This brought in £54.99 million to the Royal Collection Trust, which goes to conserve treasures for the nation, such as Rubens’ Don Rodrigo Calderón on Horseback, which, following its restoration, will go on display at Windsor Castle for the public to view. The Royal Collection Trust also paid £4.4 million of this income to the Privy Purse, to help maintain the Royal Palaces, which we have already established required £50 million worth of work.

In 2012 the Guardian calculated the Royal Family generated £9.3m in tourism, from the sale of a reduced price ticket to Buckingham Palace (£18). Following the birth of Prince George in July 2013, London received 4.7 million visitors from July to September; this was an increase of 19.5% on the same period of 2012, when London was hosting the Olympics, perhaps the most famous sporting event in the world. £11.5 billion was spent in London during 2013, plus £5 billion for the Royal Wedding in 2011. There were an extra 800,000 tourists in London compared to 2010, with an extra 350,000 visitors just in April, the month of the William and Catherine’s nuptials. 30.8 million foreigners visited the U.K. as a whole in the same year, an increase of 3.3%, which has been dubbed the Honeymoon effect: despite the wedding being long over, people still are eager to visit the places William and Kate did, such as Westminster Abbey.

Everything indicates that the Royal connection to a place generates untold riches. The Goring Hotel in Belgravia is where Kate Middleton spent the night before her wedding, before becoming The Duchess of Cambridge. In 2011 the hotel saw a 15.4% rise in sales, and in 2013 finally made a profit of £1.12 million, having lost £1.29 million in 2012. In 2013 trips to London accounted for half of all foreign visits to the U.K.. It was estimated in 2011 that The Royal family generate close to £500 million every year for British tourismIs the British Monarchy good value? Of course it is, it does not cost the British taxpayer one red penny!

Article By Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills Esq. and Miss Victoria Howard