HMQ has her head in the clouds

Kate and Will may be paying for their own furnishings, but can't the Queen cut her costs?


A spinmeister in the Royal Household announces that the Queen "costs" each of us just 53 pence a year, so why do I begrudge this hard-working pensioner a 5 per cent pay rise? For less than the cost of a large can of baked beans we've got a beautifully turned-out woman luring millions of tourists to theme park UK, a figurehead who is consistent, reliable and discreet. Sadly, like a high-performance car, she costs a disgraceful amount of money to keep roadworthy.

This increase in funds means the Queen's annual income will rise to £37.9m a year. The money comes from her huge property portfolio, the profits of which go to the Treasury, and under a new agreement, the monarch is allowed to keep 15 per cent, and she's likely to receive even more money next year. Most of us are now worse off than three years ago, and many are not able to work the hours they want as part-time working increases. I am singularly unimpressed the Queen has made economies in her many palaces: she's paying her 436 staff rises of up to 5 per cent, a total of £18.5m. Worse, taxpayers are paying £1.1m to fix the roof and remodel the interior of William and Kate's Kensington Palace residence, with its garden, three main bedrooms, five reception rooms, dressing rooms and bathrooms, nine staff bedrooms and more than 20 other rooms.

The Duke and Duchess might be paying for curtains and interior furnishings, but why can't the Queen stop using Buckingham Palace as well as Windsor, and cut her costs, like many of her subjects? Why can't William and Kate share a property with other members of the Royal family and reduce security costs? Is Kate's baby going to bring in so much trade, tourism and new business to Britain that we can justify such a lavish home?

While the Queen gets a rise, we pay more tax. The number of higher-rate taxpayers has grown from 3 million to 3.8 million and an economic think-tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says that two million more will be paying the higher rate by 2015-16, if the Government persists with it's deficit reduction strategy. Originally, the Government planned to achieve 80 per cent of its savings with spending cuts and 20 per cent with tax cuts, but now the think-tank reckons far fewer people will benefit from a reduction in tax, something the Treasury denies.

The Queen seems out of step with her subjects. The Royal Family should lead by example: handing back Buckingham Palace, getting rid of the Royal Train and cancelling foreign trips could be a start.

A star turn

I was very sorry to hear of the death at 66 of Mark Fisher, who was in my year when I studied at the Architectural Association back in 1965. Mark trained as an architect and then went on to revolutionise the staging of live music, working with most of the major artists of the past 40 years, from Madonna and Lady Gaga to U2, the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Queen. When Pink Floyd staged a one-off concert on the site of the Berlin Wall in 1990, Mark built the biggest set ever – a huge wall of 5,500 white bricks, costing $16m – and blew it up at the end.

Mark worked on the Millennium Dome show in 1999, and was executive producer for the London Olympics and Paralympics ceremonies. In person, he was the opposite to his work, which was astonishingly brash and outrageous – quietly spoken, a man of few words. I hope that Glastonbury honours him with a minute's silence – because Mark made sure that every performer he worked with would remain printed indelibly on our memories. In his hands, a live event was an electric experience.

Boles apart

In a previous life, David Cameron was a PR man and presumably understands the importance of presentation, so what perverse impulse caused him to appoint the hapless Nick Boles Minister for Planning? Boles says it's OK to build on green fields, because some of them aren't that "interesting". He thinks concreting over the countryside is essential if we are to meet housing targets, and unless villages agree to development they will become "fossilised". He has replaced Andrew Lansley as the minister most likely to enrage voters.

Last week, Mr Boles was on top form, addressing the annual meeting of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Provocatively, he said: "When I was on a council I did everything I possibly could to avoid going anywhere near planning!" A member of the audience shouted "The man's a fool" and when someone else commented he was being "simplistic" Boles lost his temper and complained about people "putting all their money into houses" … a bit rich coming from a Member of Parliament whose fellow-workers routinely buy second homes and claim tax relief on their mortgages.

I have this bizarre vision of Boles sending civil servants from his department with their iPhones to photograph fields all over England and rank them according to their beauty, so he can decide whether they are suitable for housing. According to Boles, villages need "noise and bustle". Bilge. What villages need before anything else is a reliable rural transport system, otherwise no young families will ever be able to live in the countryside. Near my home in Yorkshire, all the young families leave, because when kids become teenagers, ferrying them to colleges and secondary schools 10 or 15 miles away is impossible. How much longer can Boles survive?

Twitter feed

Last week ITV hosted a summer party in Westminster, and I introduced myself to Eric Pickles. He didn't seem to be enjoying the cabaret presented by a couple of finalists from Britain's Got Talent, who sang "Somewhere" from West Side Story. I could feel buttocks clenching on all sides, and several MPs were suddenly called outside the marquee on urgent business.

Former sandwich-makers Richard and Adam Johnson have fabulous voices, but this was a tougher audience than David Walliams and co. At least the Johnsons have the talent to entertain, something our Chancellor seems to lack. In a pathetic bid to appear human last week, he posted a picture of himself eating a hamburger on Twitter. I would rather watch paint dry than look at a pasty-faced geezer in an ugly white shirt eating a Byron burger. To prove the Tories like a joke, Mr Pickles posted a picture of himself eating a salad and carrot sticks. Sadly, a prankster soon inserted a bucket of fried chicken.

All this would be harmless if I didn't suspect that aides are being tasked with devising photos for Twitter feeds, when they could be doing something useful like coming up with deliverable policies. Osborne's stunt couldn't distract me from the hard truth that households have just experienced the biggest drop in disposable income since 1987 and the cost of living has risen by 25 per cent since the recession began in 2008. Not many voters can afford a luxury burger.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star