The Queen is set for a £2.8m pay rise next year, unless the formula used to calculate the amount taxpayers contribute to the monarchy’s running costs is changed.
As the Crown Estate property empire delivered a record £304.1m to Treasury coffers, the sovereign stands to receive £45.6m in 2017-18 – a 6.5% increase on this year’s £42.8m. The amount would represent a 57% increase for the monarch since 2012, when she received £29.1m.
Taxpayers’ annual contribution to official expenses – known as the sovereign grant – has, since 2012, been calculated as 15% of the Crown Estate surplus, two years in arrears.
Under the Sovereign Grant Act 2011, that percentage is reviewed every five years and can only be changed by the three royal trustees: the prime minister, the chancellor and the Queen’s keeper of the privy purse. Any changes are laid before the House of Commons as an “affirmative resolution” without debate.
The five-year grant review began in April and is ongoing. Though the percentage can be lowered, the act stipulates that the cash amount the Queen receives cannot be less than that she received the previous year. A senior palace official said the details of the review were private and that it was too early to speculate on what the result would be or what amount the Queen would receive for 2017-18.
The Queen’s annual accounts show the monarchy cost the taxpayer £40.1m during 2015-16, with more than £16m spent on the upkeep of royal palaces and buildings. Sir Alan Reid, keeper of the privy purse, said despite the increase in spending, a recent review had found that 45% of the estate was considered to be below target condition. The grant was supplemented by an additional income of £13.9m generated by the palace through various sources, including property rental and facilities management charges.
Prince Charles arrives at RAF Valley on the Queen’s helicopter flight. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
The Queen and the royal family’s official travel cost the taxpayer £4m, down more than £1m from last year.
Prince Charles’s private income from his Duchy of Cornwall estate rose by 3% to £20.5m, and his tax bill increased by £531,000 to just over £5m.
His travel bill was down £863,000, to £658,000, a decrease of 57% in part due to air travel for his visits to Australia and New Zealand being picked up by those realms. A charter flight for him and Prince Harry to attend the Gallipoli campaign commemorations cost £74,500.
Charles also spent £150,000 on seven trips on the royal train, which, mile for mile, is the most expensive form of travel. This included one two-day trip between Ayr, Yorkshire and Aberdeen, which cost £33,249, during which he attended a reception for the Campaign for Wool, the Ure Salmon Trust and a Dales Pony Society reception. Aides say the train is time-efficient, allowing him to conduct round-table meetings during what would normally be dead-time travelling.
Palace officials have already told MPs the royal train would not be replaced, but are looking at modifications to extend its life. “I can’t see it packing in in the next five to 10 years. The hope is to keep it going as long as possible,” said one Buckingham Palace official.
Only the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles are allowed to use the royal train. Officials believe it is a more convenient and comfortable mode of travel for the 90-year-old monarch and her 95-year-old husband.