The Queen's Down to Her Last Million Pounds in Her Rainy Day Fund

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 28 2014 11:02 AM

The Queen's Down to Her Last Million Pounds in Her Rainy Day Fund

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Buckingham Palace is pictured in central London, on January 28, 2014

Photo by Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth has roughly £1 million (about $1.6 million) left in a royal reserve fund for emergencies, according to a new report by British lawmakers on the state of the royal family's finances. To be clear, her financial portfolio holds a good deal more than that, but the dwindling reserves nonetheless have lawmakers fretting about the future of a royal estate that is aging and in disrepair. Here's the Associated Press with more on the rare royal rebuke offered by lawmakers in today's report:

Legislators on the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee urged royal officials to adopt a more commercial approach and suggested opening up Buckingham Palace to visitors more often. The committee said the royal household needed more cash to address a serious maintenance backlog on crumbling palaces. It said at least 39 percent of royal buildings—and probably more—were in an unacceptable state, "with some properties in a dangerous or deteriorating condition." ...
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"The boiler in Buckingham Palace is 60 years old," committee chair Margaret Hodge told the BBC. "The household must get a much firmer grip on how it plans to address its maintenance backlog."

The reserve fund itself shrunk by more than two thirds (from £3.3 million to £1 million) during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, leaving the rainy day fund at what the report calls a "historically low level" and raising fears that the queen "could be unable to cover its expenditure on any unforeseen events." The good news for the royal family: well, they are the royal family; money's not exactly hard for them to come by. The Royal Household generated £11.6 million last year, more than double the £6.7 million in revenue it was bringing in a half decade ago.

On top of that, there's the public funding the family receives annually. In the last fiscal year alone, Britons gave their monarch £31 million via the Sovereign Grant, cash earmarked for the queen's official duties, and that can be used for the maintenance of palaces and the salaries of staff, among other things. That figure is set to rise to £36.1 million for 2013-14 and to £37.9 million in 2014-15. So even though Hodge suggested the royal family learn to "do more with less" (advice the average Briton has been hearing for years but that one would guess is somewhat foreign to the personal experiences of the royals), the queen and co. actually only need to do more with slightly more. Or, at the least, find a way to live within an annual budget that approaches £50 million.

The report notes that the royal household has cut spending by only about 5 percent in the past six years, and its staff—currently at 430-odd people—has likewise remained almost unchanged in the past seven, a period that has been marked by deep cuts in the public and private sectors in Britain. Perhaps in a show of deference to their queen, however, the lawmakers made sure to spread the blame around, noting that the Treasury has a responsibility to "be actively involved in reviewing the household's financial planning and management—and it has failed to do so." You can read the full report here.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.