Prince Charles: Entertainment, gardening and a 'staycation'

The Prince of Wales spent £65,000 on his gardens, more than £500,000 on official entertaining and over £200,000 on stationery, his accounts showed today.

Heir to the throne Charles set aside £2,000 more for tending to flora and the grounds of residences than in the previous financial year.

The future King 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 that he spent £66,000 on donations and gifts, £347,000 on computer systems and £171,000 on external consultancy and professional fees.

His 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 featuring their own personal ciphers.

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 a quarter of million 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.

As the economic crisis gripped the country, heir to the throne Charles embraced the "staycation" instead of heading off overseas.

The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall retreated to their favourite home, Birkhall on the Balmoral estate, where they enjoy fishing and walking in the Scottish countryside.

They spent the summer, New Year and Easter at the holiday home, which used to belong to the Queen Mother.

Although the couple usually spend the summer months at Birkhall, Charles often also enjoys a quiet, reflective break in the isolated monastery on Mount Athos in Greece, but did not travel there this year.

Camilla holidayed in the Caribbean with her grandchildren in the 2007-2008 financial year and in the past has been known to spend time in the Mediterranean.

There was no skiing trip for the Prince either. He last went privately two years ago.

The decision to stay in the UK played a part in helping Charles' non-official expenditure fall by more than half a million pounds from £2,217,000 to £1,710,000 - a drop of 23 per cent.

Sir Michael Peat, the Prince's senior aide, said: "All holidays last year were taken in the UK.

"It doesn't necessarily mean that all holidays will be taken in the UK forever."

Sir Michael added: "It is a recession and 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 £1.7 million or be drawn on where other savings were made.

A spokesman said: "It's private. We're not going to give you details about personal spending."

Charles appears to be following a nationwide trend with his holiday plans.

In February, the Office for National Statistics showed UK residents made fewer trips abroad last year than they did in 2007.

They made 68.82 million visits abroad in 2008 - 1 per cent fewer than the year before.

In March, tourism minister Barbara Follett backed a campaign to encourage people to holiday in Britain instead of overseas.

Currently the fifth largest industry in Britain, domestic tourism is worth £114 billion and represents 8.2 per cent of the nation's economy.

Charles' father the Duke of Edinburgh hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace in June to promote the country's tourism industry.

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