Thursday 19 October 2017

Furore as royal family seeks grant for £1m palace heating

Queen accused of contempt for needy

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II reads the queen's speech from the throne in the House of Lords during the opening of parliament in London. Photo: Reuters
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II reads the queen's speech from the throne in the House of Lords during the opening of parliament in London. Photo: Reuters

Tony Jones

Buckingham Palace was accused of having "contempt" for ordinary people yesterday after it emerged that officials applied for grants, which are aimed at helping families caught in the poverty trap, to heat royal palaces.

Aides made enquiries about funding to replace four boilers after royal gas and electricity bills increased by 50pc in 2004 to more than £1m (€1.17m), a level described as "untenable".

But government officials said the royal household was not eligible for the cash and if money was handed over they feared it would lead to "probable adverse press coverage".

Republic, the anti-monarchy campaign group, called for the management of the palaces to be opened up to full scrutiny after the attempts to get funding were revealed in documents disclosed under a Freedom of Information request.

A Republic spokesman said: "These documents are clear evidence of the contempt the palace has for ordinary people in this country. We have our head of state demanding cash that has been set aside for low-income families.

"The palace has repeatedly refused to change the way it is managed, it has refused to open its doors to the public all year round to raise the revenue it needs; instead, they continue to go cap in hand to our government for more handouts.

"This sense of entitlement speaks volumes about the attitudes of the Windsors and their household. For them it's all about take, take, take."

The documents revealed the queen's deputy treasurer wrote to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in 2004 to ask if they would be eligible for a handout from the £60m (€70.5m) Community Energy Programme.

He asked: "Community Energy can fund up to 40pc of the capital costs of implementing a community heating scheme. . . Since we are already grant-in-aid funded, we would like to know whether the household (would) be able to benefit from these grants. I look forward to your comments."

Apologetic

At the time, the royal household's property services department received a grant-in-aid of around £15m (€17.6m) to pay for the up-keep of occupied royal palaces. It was hoped the money could be used to replace the combined heat and power units at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

But in an apologetic email sent to the palace, it was explained that the handouts were aimed at schools, hospitals, councils and housing associations for heating programmes which benefit low-income families.

The official said: "I think this is where the community energy funding is directed and ties in with most allocations going to community heating schemes run by local authorities, housing associations, universities etc.

"I also feel a bit uneasy about the probable adverse press coverage if the palace were given a grant at the expense of, say, a hospital. Sorry this doesn't sound more positive."

A DCMS spokesman explained the reasons behind the request for funding by Buckingham Palace. "It was initially thought that the royal palaces, as publicly maintained buildings, might be eligible, but subsequent advice from the Treasury pointed out that the scheme was aimed at schemes serving public sector customers such as local authorities, social housing providers, hospitals, universities, and other public sector buildings such as schools, leisure centres and town halls."

Irish Independent

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