At a cost of £369m, the British Treasury has announced a controversial 10-year refurbishment plan for Buckingham Palace, which since 1837 has been the primary royal residence.
It is quite apparent why this development has been so fiercely debated on both sides of the argument. Indeed, those in support of the investment are not exclusively proud monarchists; even some republicans have declared that the palace must be preserved and be treated as the state would any other national landmark, such as St. Paul’s or the Houses of Parliament. But equally, in a time of such austerity, it is an astonishing amount of money for the taxpayer to part with.
As the BBC’s Royal Correspondent, Sarah Campbell, pointed out:
“Questions will be asked over why the palace has been allowed to get to such a state and whether the enormous estimated costs could have been reduced if services had been regularly updated.”
From what the Treasury has stated, the intended works are essentially maintenance and repair; to replace old pipes, dodgy electrics, etc. The splurge is not going to fund a private 4D cinema to help one relax after a hard day’s waving. However, Richard Palmer reported in the Express only last year that repairs were estimated at a mere £150m, which makes the new figure all the more disconcerting.
Back in 2010, Robert Verkaik wrote in the Independent that royal officials asked ministers whether cash intended for “schools, hospitals and low-income families could be used to meet soaring fuel bills” to assist in funding the palace. This was rebuffed because, as should have been obvious to anyone, it was deemed a public relations nightmare in waiting.
The current public relations battle is underway. Online, the most prevalent defence of the investment is the tourism factor, but on the other side of an already bitter argument, Piers Morgan summed up the views of many when he tweeted: “On Children In Need day, the Royals get handed £369m of taxpayer money to refurbish Buckingham Palace. Is this a ****ing joke?” It will be interesting to see how the debate develops in the coming weeks, but either way, the Crown’s dodgy pipes will be repaired.
R. Palmer, Queen may have to move out of Buckingham Palace: Repairs could cost £150million, (Express: London, 24 June 2015)
Buckingham Palace to get £369m refurbishment, BBC News online, 18 November 2016
R. Verkaik, Queen tried to use state poverty fund to heat Buckingham Palace, (The Independent: London, 24 September 2010)