Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Britain's Royal Family Told to Cut Expenses and Staff Lawmakers Also Criticize Disrepair of Queen's Estate

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Britain's Royal Family Told to Cut Expenses and Staff Lawmakers Also Criticize Disrepair of Queen's Estate

Article excerpt

LONDON -- Time was when being queen (or king) meant having the power to make your enemies' heads roll. Now, it means being told by upstart lawmakers to cut your expenses and chop the number of people on staff. And could Your Majesty please do a better job of keeping your home in decent condition?

In a report released Tuesday on the finances of Britain's royal household, members of Parliament criticized the state of disrepair of much of Queen Elizabeth II's considerable estate, saying nearly 40 percent of it was in subpar condition. Buckingham Palace's boiler hasn't been overhauled in 60 years, and buckets catch water leaking from the roof inside a gallery where priceless artworks are kept, one lawmaker said.

Yet even as urgent home repairs were needed, the world's most famous extended family spent $74.5 million in 2012-13, going over budget by $3.8 million. The number of people serving them remains unchanged from several years ago. And the household's rainy-day reserve fund has dwindled to a decidedly less-than-princely sum of $1.7 million.

One way to help rectify that, Parliament's spending watchdog committee said, would be for the queen's financial advisers to show a little more business savvy -- for example, by throwing open Buckingham Palace's doors to ticket-buying lookie-loos for more of the year than just the summer months to which such visits are now limited.

"I don't think they've been rigorous enough, or commercial enough, in their approach to ensure that we really eke out best value for every pound of taxpayers' money that is spent supporting the royal household and serving the queen," the committee chairwoman, the Labor Party's Margaret Hodge, told Sky News. "We think a more commercial approach ... could raise more income."

As for staffing, lawmakers said the royal household should learn to live with fewer underlings, just as government agencies have been forced to lay off workers during five years of the most brutal austerity cuts Britain has seen in a generation. …

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