Her Majesty The Queen (Photo: Print screen image from the Official Website of the British Monarchy)
Members of the British royal family will have to do much more than harrumph and inaudibly clap in order to manage their finances better. They will also have to do a little more than every member of the Household saying everything that approximately sounds like “Poor chap, took a bit of a tumble theh…”
In a report Britain’s Committee of Public Accounts has made observations about the Household* which in lesser mortals might have led to foreclosing on their properties. Here is what it says:
There are three areas in particular where we feel the Household and the Treasury have fallen short.
First, the Household spent more than it took in. Net expenditure (£33.3m) was greater than the Grant (£31 million) in 2012-13. The Household had to draw down £2.3 million from its £3.3 million Reserve Fund, leaving a balance of only £1.0 million at 31 March 2013, a historically low level of contingency.
The Household needs to get better at planning and managing its budgets for the longer term – and the Treasury should be more actively involved in reviewing what the Household is doing.
Second, the Household is not looking after nationally important heritage properties adequately. Back in March 2012, 39% of the Royal estate was assessed as below what the Household deemed to be an acceptable condition. Now it is likely to be worse, with some properties in a dangerous or deteriorating condition.
The Household must get a much firmer grip on how it plans to address its maintenance backlog. It has not even costed the repair works needed to bring the estate back to an acceptable condition, and the Treasury did not require an estimate. Again, the Treasury has an oversight role here.
Finally, there is scope for the Household to generate more income and reduce its costs further. It’s certainly good news that the Royal Household has increased its income in 2012-2013 to £11.6 million. However, we think it could do more. Since 2007-08, the Household has cut its net costs by 16% in real terms, but 11% of that was achieved by increasing income, and just 5% by reducing expenditure. With better commercial expertise in place, we think there is room to do more with less, reducing costs further and supporting The Queen’s programme more effectively."
Reading the report about the Household’s financial troubles offers an amusing insight into the lives of the inordinately rich and the unforgivably privileged. That there was only 1 million pounds left for the contingency is indeed a matter of great concern. It’s the kind of money that Mukesh Ambani’s son can wire without feeling anything missing from his allowance. (Literary exaggeration. Not to be taken literally because Mukesh Ambani’s son is not actually going to wire that money and the Household is not going to actually accept it).
One way that the Household can generate some revenue is by sending their bowler hats out to the obscenely new rich in former British colonies. Of course, the royal hats will need a royal carrier.
* The Household is an umbrella term to describe various royal departments that manage the British royal affairs, including “royal animals” and their royal dung.