Energy savings help reduce the royal family's housekeeping bill

'The royal household has achieved substantial savings for the taxpayer'

JAMES CUSICK

England's royal residences are now "value for money" after having made annual savings of more than pounds 3m in housekeeping bills.

The successful tightening of the royal purse strings was announced yesterday in the first annual report to be published giving financial information on the royal household's overall budget.

The report, The Grant-in-Aid for the Maintenance of the Occupied Royal Palaces in England, shows that the grant-in-aid expenditure has fallen from pounds 23.9m in 1991-92 to pounds 20.5m for 1994-95, a drop of pounds 3.4m. It is planned to reduce this further during the next five years.

Like most households, it would appear that the royal family is now paying attention to energy conservation, showing cut-backs on gas and electricity and the installation of a computer monitor to improve energy efficiency.

The report comes a year after the controversy surrounding claims - denied by Buckingham Palace - that an excessive amount of royal household staff and courtiers live rent-free in grace-and-favour accommodation. A report last September by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, although complimentary of the royal household's financial management, nevertheless recommended greater openness over how money was spent.

Grant-in-aid is the annual funding provided by the Government, through the Department of National Heritage, to the royal household to meet its property maintenance, utilities and related services costs at the occupied royal palaces. In return the Queen surrenders the net surplus from the Crown Estate and other hereditary revenues which amounted to pounds 80m in 1993- 94.

Commenting on the report, Michael Peat, director of property services and the royal household official responsible for grant-in-aid said: "The royal household has made encouraging progress not only in enhancing the maintenance and conservation of these important buildings but, also at the same time, in achieving substantial savings for the taxpayer."

Mr Peat claimed that a further pounds 70m would be saved by the end of the decade.

The report examines the running of Buckingham Palace, the residential and official areas of Kensington Palace, St James's Palace, Clarence House and Marlborough House Mews, the Royal Mews and Royal Paddocks at Hampton Court and Windsor Castle, and the buildings in the Home and Great Parks, also at Windsor. The estate comprises a total 350 individual properties.

On the cost of repairing the fire-damaged Windsor Castle, the report says: "The restoration is progressing well." It estimates that the project will be completed within the budget of pounds 40m. Almost pounds 9.5m has been spent so far.

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