Royal Household and DCMS face criticism over “scandal” of neglected palaces

June 2, 2009 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment

The occupied Royal palaces are not being properly managed, according to the Public Accounts Committee.

The committee”s chair, Edward Leigh MP, has accused the Department for Culture, Media and Sport of failing to maintain “a firm grip on its responsibilities for maintaining the upkeep.”

DCMS says it will cost £32m to clear the backlog of maintenance work, while some important monuments are so dilapidated they are at risk.

“No rigorous (cost) analysis has been carried out and, in truth, neither the Royal Household nor the Department really knows how big the problem is or what to do about it,” Mr Leigh said.

“It is a scandal that the condition of the Victoria and Albert Mausoleum has deteriorated to the point where this monument of national importance is on the Buildings at Risk Register – but the Household’s resources are constrained.

“What is needed, by the end of 2009, is an agreed basis for determining the maintenance backlog across the whole estate and a plan for managing it.”

Mr Leigh suggested opening up Buckingham Palace to tourists for more days per year.

“In contrast to Windsor Castle, which is open to the public virtually all year, Buckingham Palace is open for 63 days because of the number of official engagements and the costs involved,” he said.

“Other buildings such as the White House and Houses of Parliament manage to open for most of the year, despite similar obligations and security concerns.”

The committee took evidence from DCMS and the Royal Household and visited Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, St James’ Palace and Windsor Castle to see a selection of the Household’s maintenance projects.

The Occupied Royal Palaces Estate (the Estate), which includes Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, is held in Trust for the Nation and used to support the official duties of The Sovereign.

DCMS is accountable to Parliament for the upkeep of the Estate, but has delegated day to day responsibility to the Household.

The Department gives the Household an annual grant to maintain and run the Palaces, which has remained at around £15 million since 2000-01 (a 19% real terms reduction). An increase in running costs over the same period means there has been a 27% fall in maintenance expenditure to £11.1 million in 2007-08.

The Royal Collection Trust (the Trust) is responsible for the works of art held in Trust for the Nation, but is not accountable to Parliament.

The Trust manages visitor admission to the Palaces and receives the income generated, which in 2007-08 totalled £28 million.

The Household uses the Estate to accommodate some members of the Royal Family, 139 current and 32 former staff, and has 36 properties available to let. Since 2001, the Household has increased the rent received from £418,000 to £1 million.

Click here to read the report.


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