The Prince of Wales: A new expenses scandal?

Taxpayers were landed with a £3.1m bill last year to fund Prince Charles, a rise of 23.5 per cent, bringing his total income to £19.5m. Of this, £1.71m was spent on air and rail travel – an increase of 48 per cent – £6.2m went on staff salaries, £500,000 on official entertaining and receptions and £65,000 on his gardens. His own tax bill was £3.1m – 10 per cent lower than last year
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The Independent Online

Prince Charles faced renewed calls yesterday to make a full disclosure of his financial accounts after it emerged that his public costs had risen by nearly a quarter in the last year while his tax bill had fallen.

The last financial year saw state subsidies for the Prince of Wales jump from £2.45m to £3.03m and his private income increase to £16.4m.

Overall, Charles spent more, earned more and employed more staff last year, but still managed to cut his tax bill by nearly 10 per cent, the official figures showed. There is no official figure for the estimated £2m it costs to pay for Charles and Camilla's security.

Graham Smith, for the anti-monarchy campaign group Republic, said it was time that the government scrapped state subsidies for the couple. "This is a double-whammy for the taxpayer – less tax and more subsidies while the government is having to make swingeing cuts to public services. After months of public anger over MPs' expenses, it is now time for Charles to come clean. He appears to claim butlers and personal dressers as business costs, thereby saving him a small fortune in tax. The taxpayer is being asked to subsidise the prince through multi-million pound grants – we deserve to know the details of his expense claims that he is using to reduce his tax bill."

Clarence House said that annual accounts showed that the increase in the public cost of Prince Charles was due to a "busier than ever" year for the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in terms of public engagements throughout the UK and overseas on behalf of the Government.

The 2009 review shows that, in the Prince's 60th year, he and the Duchess undertook 658 joint and solo official engagements, hosted more than 9,000 people at events at royal residences, and travelled more than 50,000 miles at home and abroad in the course of their work on behalf of the country. The accounts also showed that Charles's official expenditure rose by nearly a fifth from to £10.45m to £12.5m. However, much of his income was written off against tax as business costs. His tax bill including VAT – the Prince pays 40 per cent tax on his income – went down from £3.429m to £3.093m.

The Prince of Wales spent £65,000 on his gardens, more than £500,000 on official entertaining and over £200,000 on stationery. He also set aside £2,000 more for tending to flora and the grounds of residences than in the previous financial year. The heir to the throne was also faced with rising utility bills which jumped almost a third, rising £43,000 from £139,000 to £182,000. Other details of official costs, which the Prince funds from his personal income from the Duchy of Cornwall, showed he spent £66,000 on donations and gifts, £347,000 on computer systems and £171,000 on legal and other professional fees. Stationery and office equipment costs rose 19 per cent from £183,000 to £218,000.

The rise came in the year that Princes William and Harry set up their own joint household in St James's Palace with new letterheads.

Charles's official entertaining and reception costs went up £111,000 from £416,000 to £527,000. His housekeeping and office cleaning bill fell by £27,000 to £105,000. Costs for residences and offices not paid for by Grant-in-Aid rose by more than £250,000 from £419,000 to £703,000.

Meanwhile, the Prince helped to cut his personal costs last year by staying in the UK for his holidays. The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall retreated to their favourite home, Birkhall on the Balmoral estate, where they enjoy fishing and walking. They spent the summer, New Year and Easter at the property, which used to belong to the Queen Mother. There was no skiing trip either. The prince last went privately two years ago.

The decision to stay in the UK helped Charles' non-official expenditure fall by more than £250,000 from £2,217,000 to £1,710,000 – a drop of 23 per cent. Sir Michael Peat, the Prince's senior aide, said: "We are looking at all costs very carefully. Clearly with the example the Prince of Wales sets, he looks at his personal costs before he looks at his official costs, because his official costs are related to his duties and responsibilities to the country and clearly he doesn't want to cut back there if at all possible."

Asked about celebrations this year, Sir Michael said: "There were some parties. Of course, there was the Prince's 60th birthday." But Clarence House refused to reveal any more details of Charles's personal spending of £1.7m or be drawn on where other savings were made.