Queen drawing cash from reserves, prompting fresh concern over finances

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The Queen has already begun drawing upon the multi-million pound reserves from her Civil List which are meant to last her until 2011, according to reports yesterday about the royal finances.

The Queen has already begun drawing upon the multi-million pound reserves from her Civil List which are meant to last her until 2011, according to reports yesterday about the royal finances.

Under the terms of a deal struck between the Government and the Palace two years ago, the annual Civil List payment of £7.9m has been frozen until 2011.

The £35m reserve built up over 10 years after an "overgenerous" allowance for inflation by the Major government was one of the reasons that Gordon Brown decided to cut the Queen's pay. But reports that this money is already being drawn upon to pay for the Royal Household will prompt further concerns about drains on the Queen's income.

Yesterday the Palace declined to disclose how much of the accumulated reserve had been used. Neither would it discuss reports that both of the Queen's private residences, Balmoral and Sandringham, were in the red.

On Thursday, The Independent revealed the extent of the increasing strain on the royal finances, prompting MPs to call for much wider scrutiny of the accounts.

Next month, the Royal Collection, a trust set up to look after some of the Queen's finest paintings and works of art, is expected to release disappointing visitor figures for Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Scotland.

Last year's report showed that profits for the Collection had fallen by £4m in the last five years while direct costs had risen by almost the same amount in the same period.

But according to yesterday's reports, the Palace believes its finances are very healthy and thinks it extremely unlikely that the Queen will have to go back to Parliament for more money. However, a Palace source is also quoted as saying: "We are drawing down on the reserves but even if there is an increase in inflation we are covered."

Constitutional experts warned yesterday that it would only require a modest rise in inflation or another disaster like the fire at Windsor Castle to unsettle royal finances.

Kevin Cahill, the author of Who Owns Britain and one of the original compilers of The Sunday Times Rich List, said that the mechanism was there to allow the Queen to return to Parliament for more money whenever she so desired. Mr Cahill, who once valued the royal wealth at £2.2bn, described the Queen as "asset rich but cash poor".

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