Royal drive to cut costs ends as bill rises by £1m

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The Independent Online

The cost to the taxpayer of maintaining the Royal Family rose by nearly £1m last year, signalling an end to a recent economy drive at the Palace.

Accounts published by the Queen yesterday showed that it cost 60p a year per head of population to subsidise the senior royals, an increase of 2p since 2001.

After 11 years of scrimping and saving by the Royal Household, driving down annual expenditure by more than 59 per cent, costs have started to rise once more.

The nine-coach royal train, expected to be withdrawn from service because of its high overheads, cost taxpayers £872,000 last year, compared with £675,000 in 2001-02.

But despite criticism by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee of the growing expense of the train, the Queen's Keeper of the Privy Purse, Alan Reid, said yesterday that the service would probably stay for another 15 years.

Mr Reid said: "Cost alone was not the only factor we considered. The ages of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh - 77 and 82 respectively - was a consideration. Also the need for secure accommodation, a travelling office and reliability were taken into account."

Mr Reid said: "We have carried out a very thorough review and we have concluded that we will continue with the royal train. But we will monitor its operation and, where possible, reduce costs."

Mr Reid justified the 2.5 per cent increase in the Queen's annual expenditure of £900,000 to £36.2m on the basis that cheapest was not always best.

"We are trying to achieve a high-quality operation but efficiency in terms of value for money is important," he said. "However, it is not necessarily our aim to have the cheapest monarchy possible - quality is also important."

Last year his predecessor, Sir Michael Peat, said the Royal Family represented good value for money because they cost each person no more than the price of a daily newspaper. Yesterday Mr Reid said that the cost per head of the population "is still that of a loaf of bread".

A separate report on the annual cost of maintaining the royal palaces showed that expenditure at Windsor Castle had risen by £145,000 to £2.5m. This figure does not take account of the amount the state pays for royal security, breached last week by Aaron Barschak, a self-styled comedy terrorist, at Prince William's 21st birthday party.

Yesterday Peter Herbert, who is a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, which oversees the running of the force, and is chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, called for the Royal Family to contribute to the cost of their own protection.

Mr Herbert, a barrister who also sits as a Crown Court recorder, provoked an angry response from some members of the police authority at a monthly meeting when he argued that the Royal Family did not deserve any more protection than the public.

He told authority members: "They have no more value than anyone around this table or anyone outside. I don't think their life is any more valuable than that of any other Londoner."

One of the main factors contributing to the rise in royal spending was the cost of refurbishing Clarence House, the Queen Mother's former London residence now being prepared for the Prince of Wales and his sons.

The bedroom and bathroom of the Prince's partner, Camilla Parker Bowles, at Clarence House had been refurbished, but left in basic finish. Royal aides made clear that the Prince would meet any additional costs involved in providing her with accommodation.