In Brief

Queen told to rein in spending as she 'reaches final million'

Buckingham Palace should be open to the public for longer and 'rented out' to fund repairs

THE Queen has been told to rent out Buckingham Palace to help fund repairs for the "crumbling" royal estate.

The recommendation was made by MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee, which today published an unprecedented report into the royal finances. It comes after a change in law that gives MPs oversight of how the Queen spends her money.

According to the report, the royal household has spent more than it has taken in: its net expenditure of £33.3m in 2012-2013 was seven per cent higher than its income of £31m. That resulted in the palace taking out £2.3m from its £3.3m reserves – leaving the Queen with just £1m in the bank.

On top of that, the royal estate - around 360 buildings including Windsor Castle, St James Palace and parts of Kensington Palace - is in need of £50m of repairs.

The boilers at Buckingham Palace are said to be at least 60 years old, some state rooms have not been decorated or rewired since 1952 and one leaking roof requires buckets to be used in wet weather. One report suggests Princess Anne was almost hit by a piece of crumbling masonry in the John Nash quadrangle as she got out of her car.

The accounts committee is demanding that staff "get a much firmer grip" on how they plan to address the repairs backlog, reports The Independent.

The report says the Queen is "not being served well by the Royal Household in balancing the books", suggesting that even at 87 she needs to keep a closer eye on how her money is spent.

It recommends that Buckingham Palace is open to the public for longer stretches of the year and is rented out for commercial events.

MPs also noted that royal staffing levels have remained at around 430 for the past seven years, with no apparent cuts.

"The Household needs to get better at planning and managing its budgets for the longer term," said Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee. "With better commercial expertise in place, we think there is room to do more with less."

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