£32m needed to repair Britain's royal palaces

Auditor's office warns of increasing damage to national assets

Britain's royal palaces are crumbling because of cuts in the money allocated to repair them and need urgent work that will cost £32m. Maintenance spending on the palaces, which include Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and St James's Palace, has shrunk by more than a quarter in less than a decade, the Government's auditor says.

A total of £11.1m was spent on maintenance last year, a 27 per cent fall in real terms since 2000, the report from the National Audit Office found. The value of the £15m grant-in-aid handed to the Royal Household from the Government, unchanged since 2000, has shrunk in real terms by 19 per cent, causing severe funding problems at the palaces.

The growing repair list includes £16m of new roofing at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, which also contains worn-out heating and electrical equipment that need replacing, at a cost of £2.4m.

Victorian cast-iron and lead water mains at Windsor are in need of a £3m overhaul and overdue conservation work on the Victoria and Albert Mausoleum, in grounds neighbouring the castle, has led English Heritage to label it as officially "at risk".

Palace aides say the public grant handed to the Royal Household from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will have to increase by at least £4m a year when the Government devises its next public spending plan in 2010, to clear the backlog.

The royal household staff have tried to cut costs by adopting thrifty methods familiar to more humble households: switching off lights, saving hot water and keeping a close eye on the electricity and gas meters.

The Royal Household managed to knock £400,000 off the running costs of the palaces last year, by reducing its utility bills. More Royal-owned properties have been let out in an attempt to cope with rising running costs, which have shot up by 11 per cent since 2000. The number of Royal properties available for rent has more than doubled to 36, bringing in more than £1m in rent each year.

The National Audit Office has urged the Culture department and the Royal Household's property section to hold urgent talks to work out which repairs are most pressing and how they can be funded. It said there was no agreement between the two on a standard of maintenance against which the state of the palaces could be measured.

Tim Burr, the head of the National Audit Office said: "The Royal Household and Department for Culture, Media and Sport need to develop a way of measuring the condition of the estate over time, so that the department has confidence that the future of these national assets is secure."

A spokeswoman for the Culture department said: "All departments face tough decisions about where to direct public spending to ensure value for money for taxpayers."

Jewels of the Crown: Where the work is needed

£16m

New lead and slate roofing at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

£2.4m

Replacement of heating and electrical facilities at Buckingham Palace and removal of asbestos.

£2.8m

Conservation work on Victoria and Albert Mausoleum, currently on English Heritage's buildings at risk register.

£3m

Replacement of Victorian cast iron and lead water mains at Windsor.

£11m

Spent on maintenance last year, a drop of 27 per cent in real terms. Source: National Audit Office.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor