Pope's UK visit cost £7m

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The Independent Online

The Pope's state visit to the UK last year cost the taxpayer at least £7 million before security, the Foreign Office has disclosed.

It included an £18,735 dinner for the Papal delegation with the Foreign Secretary and £22,530 on helicopter flights.

The figures were published in a written ministerial statement by junior minister Henry Bellingham.

Pope Benedict's four day visit in September was the first official trip to the UK by a pontiff - with events attended by an estimated 500,000 people.

The £6.98 million costs of the state elements are being met by the public purse with the Catholic Church asked to reimburse the taxpayer another £6.35 million for pastoral events.

Direct costs already met by the UK's Catholic churches are estimated at around £3.8 million.

Policing and local authority costs were "met within existing budgets" the Foreign Office said, but could not supply a total figure.

The main bill was split between seven Whitehall departments - controversially including the Department for International Development - each paying £1.25 million.

As the overall cost was lower than anticipated, they will get back £600,000 of the £1.85 million each paid the FCO in advance of the Pope's arrival.

Among the costliest items on the bill were £3 million for media facilities and £1.67 million for an open-air beatification mass in Birmingham - for which the church paid £4.43 million.

Airport arrivals and departures came in at just more than £60,000, £34,440 was spent on the transportation of the Popemobile and official baggage and £17,546 went on accommodation for senior members of the papal delegation.

Scotland Yard said policing the London elements of the visit cost around £1.8 million.

That is £300,000 higher than the top estimate for the entire UK operation given before the Pope's arrival by the officer who headed the operation.

The Local Government Association said it had no estimate of the total cost to local authorities which hosted events in their areas on the tour.