The Treasury has announced a new 10-year refurbishment plan for Buckingham Palace, costing the taxpayer a stately £369m.
According to the Royal Household, the palace (which has not been redecorated since 1952) is in serious need of renovation owing to fears over potential fire and water damage. "Ageing cables, lead pipes, wiring and boilers will all be replaced" leading to the inevitable question... What about Charles, will they do him too? Of course not! (although if you don't ask you don't get).
The response from many is - At a time of economic difficulty (isn't it always?), can the country really afford to direct money away from schools and hospitals into a decade-long, 66% increase in the Sovereign Grant?
Benefits of the upgrade
The decision has been defended as 'cost effective' and 'the best value for money', from those who claim that the benefits of the upgrade, including longer summer opening hours, more private tours and other savings, could be worth around £3.4m each year. "So we'll have made our money back in a little under 100 years... by which time Buckingham Palace will probably be a Starbucks anyway" I hear you. Well, not necessarily.
The counter argument, of course, is that Buckingham Palace is one of the biggest and most lucrative tourist spots in the world, bringing millions pounds in revenue each year; and American tourists aren't going to be too impressed to see the Queen in a big woolly jumper, catching drips in a royal saucer. They want grandeur, and the illusion that, here at least, everybody's posh. Pimms on the lawn, bridge after dinner, Professor Plum in the library with a candlestick. This is the fantasy they pay for, and they pay well. Last year, the Crown brought in almost £300 million, lowering our overall taxes and cementing our 'brand' across the globe. And we mustn't forget that Buckingham Palace is the HQ for all these operations – the command center Imperialis.
In fact, the Queen has spent around a third of her 60 year reign hosting garden parties, receptions, investitures and other events here. Entertaining everyone from David Beckham to Mahatma Ghandi. That's 20 years of small talk, people. Twenty years of 'It's so rarely marv'lous to meet you. What do you do?'. That's got to be worth something, right?
However, some are not amused
That said, this new project does seem to be pushing the royal envelope just a bit. With 100 miles of electrical cabling being replaced, along with 6,500 electrical sockets, 5,000 light fittings, 330 fuse boxes and 2,500 radiators. On top of this, some 30,000 square metres of floorboards - the equivalent of 3.5 football pitches – will also be taken up.
The sudden and seemingly urgent need for renovation has stirred some in government who had previously accused the Palace of mismanaging their finances. In 2014, a report by the Public Accounts Committee said that the Royal Household was "not looking after nationally important heritage properties adequately", saying that in March 2012, 39% of the royal estate was "below what the household deemed to be an acceptable condition". Which begs the question, would the bill be so high if these issues had been dealt with sooner? (i.e. any time after 1952...).
We don't know. All we can say is Prince Philip better be careful when sliding down those ornate banisters, We're not sure the country can take another 'essential' refurbishment. #England #London