June 29, 2009 / 3:29 PM / 11 years ago

Queen Elizabeth faces wait for palace repairs

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Queen Elizabeth faces a long wait for repairs to the roof of Buckingham Palace unless the government stumps up extra cash, royal accounts showed on Monday.

Her treasurer, Alan Reid, said a backlog of “essential” maintenance would reach 40 million pounds over the next decade if there is no increase in annual funding.

Key projects facing at least a 10-year wait include the 13 million pounds renewal of lead and slate roofs at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and the 4.5 million pound refurbishment of state rooms at both properties.

Also facing a decade of delays are replacements to the palace’s heating and electricity services, as well as the replacement of aging cast iron and lead Victorian water mains at the castle.

Reid, known as the Keeper of the Privy Purse, said royal officials would continue to negotiate with the government “to improve the assessment of the additional funding required.”

The government would have to increase support to 19 million pounds a year from 15 million to avoid the backlog, a senior Buckingham Palace source told Reuters.

But with Britain suffering its most severe economic downturn for 60 years, extra taxpayer funds for the royals may be hard for the government to justify.

A parliamentary committee said earlier this month the queen should open Buckingham Palace more often to tourists to help raise money for repairs, a recommendation royal officials are studying.

The government covers the cost of the royal family’s official duties in return for the queen surrendering the revenue from royal property held by Crown Estate and other hereditary sources, which reached 211 million pounds in 2007.

Royal expenditure rose 1.5 percent to 41.5 million pounds in the last financial year, after allowing for inflation.

Reid said this was equivalent to just 69 pence per person in Britain, a rise of 3 pence over the year before.

But anti-monarchist pressure group Republic said the comparison was meaningless, adding that the published expenditure did not include the cost of security.

“Every year the palace press office tries to justify the cost of the monarchy by dividing the official figure by 60 million,” said Republic spokesman Graham Smith.

“With that sort of accounting you can justify pretty much anything.”

Editing by Steve Addison

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