Joan Smith: We're all in this together, but is Charles?

Related Topics

Cognitive dissonance or taking the you-know-what? I'm still trying to decide, but judge for yourself: as ordinary people in this country cut back on even small luxuries like chocolate, Prince Charles has increased his staff to 159.

His overall income, which includes funding from the Government and the Duchy of Cornwall, rose by almost five per cent to £19.7m last year. Meanwhile the salaries of his expanding staff of butlers, valets, aides, dressers, housekeepers and gardeners were frozen. It's tough out there, you know!

The prince is, as we know, a doughty campaigner against climate change and "over-consumption of finite natural resources". It says so in his annual review, which also reveals that his own travel costs rose by 56 per cent last year as he and Camilla clocked up 34,000 miles on official trips. The review speaks in glowing terms of his Start initiative "to encourage people and communities to take practical steps to reduce their energy use and carbon footprint". But the prince has yet to start cutting his own expenditure, although one economy has been announced this week: his newly appointed harpist won't receive a salary.

Perhaps the Royal Family doesn't follow the news. How could they have failed to notice that the word "austerity" is everywhere, along with alarming phrases like "retail carnage"? In Greece, there are riots over the prospect of another round of savage cuts, and in this country a swathe of high-street names is announcing shop closures and redundancies. Ten thousand jobs are set to be lost as one company after another recognises that consumers have less money after paying soaring household bills.

But while shoppers can no longer afford to indulge themselves with a few chocolate truffles, Charles's personal spending rose by 50 per cent to £2.5m in 2010. His expenditure on entertaining and receptions alone rose by more than a quarter, to £323,000. And he claimed it all against tax, along with £155,000 for the upkeep of his gardens. This ancien-regime lifestyle is all the more astonishing against the background of today's strike by public sector workers, with millions of people protesting about having to work longer for smaller pensions.

There's no doubt that there is a pension-funding crisis, but an evident lack of fairness makes the bitter pill harder to swallow. One of New Labour's failures in government was its unwillingness to tackle the pay gap between the highest and lowest paid, allowing a culture of excess to flourish unchecked in publicly funded institutions. I'm not just talking about the lucky residents of Clarence House, but the way in which all kinds of people – from council chief executives to top BBC presenters and executives – began to expect (and got) eye-watering salary and pension deals.

The BBC refused to comment yesterday on reports that it has paid more than £1.3m to make just two of its most senior staff redundant, saying only that it has made "significant progress" in reducing the number and salaries of top executives. But the deputy director-general Mark Byford is believed to have received just under £950,000 in addition to a generous pension pot, while another senior member of staff, who had worked for the BBC for less than two years, left with just under £400,000. Presumably the corporation was contractually obliged to make the payments, but the question is why the BBC's salary structure was allowed to become so detached from reality.

Envy is an unattractive emotion, but this isn't just about a few overpaid individuals. It's about fairness at a time when people who don't have very much to start with are seeing their pensions reduced, getting fewer visits from home-helps or having their day centres closed. That's the reality for millions of people, and I can't help wondering why we put up with an heir to the throne who's a one-man argument for the introduction of sumptuary laws.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
If Miliband is PM, it is expected that Cameron will stand down as party leader quickly  

General Election 2015: With more options to form a government, Miliband should win this campaign

Jane Merrick
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk