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Maintaining the Occupied Royal Palaces

The National Audit Office reported today that the Royal Household has improved value for money by tightening up the way it plans and manages its maintenance of the Occupied Royal Palaces. Without an agreed way of measuring the condition of the estate, however, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport cannot show how far the Palaces are being maintained in line with its objectives.

In 2007-08, the Property Section of the Royal Household received £15 million from public funds to run and maintain the Occupied Royal Palaces, broadly the same level of funding as in 2000-01, which is a reduction of 19 per cent in real terms.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is ultimately responsible for the upkeep of the Estate, but does not currently have a clear basis for assessing the extent to which its aim of maintaining the Palaces to a standard consistent with their royal, architectural and historic status is being achieved. The Property Section has identified a backlog of maintenance work, but there is not yet an agreement between the parties about how the backlog should be measured or how to manage it.

The Property Section has recently strengthened its approach to planning maintenance work and has put in place the key elements of a sound maintenance strategy.

In addition to public funding, in 2007-08 the Property Section generated almost £3 million from visitors to Windsor Castle and from renting out accommodation on the estate. Since 2000-01, it has more than doubled the number of properties available to let from 16 to 36. The Royal Household’s approach to generating income could be strengthened by developing a formal Estate strategy.

"For a number of years, the grant given to run and maintain the Royal Palaces has been static – and has fallen significantly in real terms. The Royal Household is making efforts to be more efficient in how it uses its funds, but there is no measure of how effectively the Palaces are being maintained. The Royal Household and Department for Culture, Media and Sport need to develop a way of measuring the condition of the estate over time, so that the Department has confidence that the future of these national assets is secure."

Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office

Notes for Editors

  1. The Occupied Royal Palaces are Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, Windsor Castle, and parts of Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Mews and the Home Park. The Palaces are used to support the Sovereign’s role as Head of State and are held in Trust for the Nation by the Sovereign. The cost of maintaining the Palaces falls to the Government. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is ultimately accountable to Parliament for the maintenance and provision of services to the Palaces. Since 1991, however, the day-to-day responsibility for planning and managing the maintenance work has rested with the Royal Household.
  2. Where presented movements in costs are in real terms, the Retail Prices Index has been used.
  3. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at www.nao.org.uk. Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  4. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Tim Burr, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 850 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

PN: 55/08