LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Queen Elizabeth might have to move out of Buckingham Palace for an extended period under plans being considered to allow builders to carry out millions of pounds of repairs to the crumbling building.
The 300-year-old palace needs about 150 million pounds ($240 million) worth of work to fix the roofs and replace old wiring, ancient decorating and dated plumbing, a royal source said on Wednesday.
Although no decision is imminent as funding has yet to be agreed, the royals who use the palace as a London base, including the queen and some of her children, might have to move out as well if that is the most cost-effective solution.
“It is one of a number of potential options as we take forward the essential maintenance of the palace,” the royal source said.
If she does have to move out, the queen has several official residences to choose from, including Windsor Castle west of London, Sandringham House in Norfolk, Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh and Balmoral Castle further north in Scotland.
Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms including 52 royal and guest bedrooms and 188 bedrooms for staff. It was bought by King George III for his wife Queen Charlotte and has served as the official London residence of Britain’s monarchs since 1837.
In January 2014, lawmakers accused the royal household of neglecting repairs at the palace, saying its electrical wiring and boilers were at least 60 years old and it had asbestos that needed to be removed.
“We will look carefully at all the options and the cost implications before taking any decisions,” a palace spokeswoman said.
Official figures on Wednesday showed the 89-year-old queen, who will overtake Queen Victoria as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch in September, spent 35.7 million pounds in the last financial year. Public funding for the monarch will increase to almost 43 million pounds next year.
“The queen, the royal family and the household continue to provide excellent value for money: at 56p (pence) per person annually,” said the queen’s treasurer Alan Reid, known as the Keeper of the Privy Purse.
Republican campaigners estimate the annual cost of the monarchy to the taxpayer to be 334 million pounds, taking into account issues such as security charges. They say the royal family should move out of the palace permanently if they could not afford its upkeep.
“The Tower of London does well as a world-class tourist attraction, paying for its own upkeep,” said Graham Smith, chief executive of the anti-monarchy group Republic. “Buckingham Palace would make a great tourist destination - if the royals moved out.”
Editing by Tom Heneghan