The Sovereign Grant - Public Accounts Committee Contents

2  Previous PAC recommendations

12. This Committee reported in 2009 that work required to repair the Victoria and Albert Mausoleum, a monument of national importance, had been outstanding for 14 years and that its condition was getting worse. The report noted that repairing the Mausoleum would cost around £3 million and that the Household had no plans to do the required work, as it had 'resource constraints'.[27] In its 2012-13 Annual Report, the Household noted that despite the Mausoleum being on the English Heritage 'at risk' register, its restoration was not a priority for the Household. The report added that it was uncertain whether there would be sufficient funding to complete the restoration of the Mausoleum in the foreseeable future. The report noted that the Household had carried out only minor works to dry the building and to monitor its condition before considering whether to restore it.[28] Work required to repair the Mausoleum has now been outstanding for 18 years. We were surprised at the complacency which the Household had shown in their report, and asked the Household what plans it had to safeguard the Mausoleum's future. The Household said it would like to work on the whole of the Royal estate maintenance backlog straight away, but it had limited funds and it was not possible to do everything at once.[29]

13. In 2009, following the recommendation in the Committee's report 'Maintaining the Occupied Royal Palaces', the Household formally documented an income generation strategy to supplement the funding received from Grant-in-Aid.[30] The Household's income increased from £6.7 million in 2007-08 to £11.6 million in 2012-13. In accordance with this strategy, the Household increased its income from the commercial letting of properties and by making use of facilities outside the palaces for commercial events.[31] The Household told us that its success in increasing its income by 54% in the past five years had allowed it to maintain the level of activity needed to support The Queen's programme.[32]

14. The Committee also recommended in 2009 that the Household work with the Royal Collection Trust to revise the arrangements for the collection and distribution of visitor income. In 2012-13, the Trust paid £3.7 million to the Household in facilities management charges, compared with £1.8 million in 2007-08.[33] In 2012-13, the Household extended Buckingham Palace summer opening to 78 days, receiving 514,000 visitors, compared with 63 days in 2008, when it received 392,000 visitors, and 56 days in 1993, when it received 379,000 visitors. The average number of daily visitors is around 6,500.[34] Other historic buildings, for example, the Palace of Westminster, are open to visitors for longer periods through the year than Buckingham Palace, despite Parliamentary activities taking place at the Palace of Westminster at the same time.[35]

15. The Household told us that it has looked at opening Buckingham Palace in the winter, but decided it was not commercially viable as it would not generate additional profit. However, it has opened Buckingham Palace to private tours between September and April and has found these to be popular with the public. In 2012-13, it ran just under 120 tours. It considered there are constraints to greater opening of Buckingham Palace due to the number of activities taking place in the Palace and the fixed set-up costs for each opening.[36]

16. In its 2002 report 'Royal Travel by Air and Rail'[37], the Committee recognised the major savings which the Household had achieved in the cost of air travel and the cost of the Royal train. The Household's overall spending on Royal travel has fallen from £5 million in 2007-08 to £4.5 million in 2012-13. Most of this fall is due to fewer hours of chartering fixed-wing aircraft, while the Household's spending on rail travel has been stable.[38]

17. The Committee recommended in 2002 that the Household review the future of the Royal train after The Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations and consider alternative options for its provision. In April 2009, the Household awarded a contract for the operation of the Royal train to D B Schenker, following a competitive tender. The Household told us that this reduced the maintenance costs by 9% in real terms, mainly through extending the maintenance interval for some of the rolling stock.[39] The Household is currently reviewing the options for retendering the operation and maintenance of the Royal train, which dates from the 1970s. It intends to continue to use the Royal train for as long as the rolling stock is working, which it believes will be for another five to 10 years. However, it has not yet developed alternative options or a replacement to a Royal train, which it considers provides safe and secure transport, particularly for overnight travel to early-morning Royal engagements. It acknowledged that this will require a major decision ahead on whether or not to invest in a new Royal train.[40]

27   'Maintaining the Occupied Royal Palaces', 24th Report of Session 2008-09, HC 201, 27 April 2009 Back

28   'The Sovereign Grant Annual Report and Accounts 2012-13', HC 212, 27 June 2013, page 32 Back

29   Qq 63-65 Back

30   Maintaining the Occupied Royal Palaces', 24th Report of Session 2008-09, HC 201, 27 April 2009 Back

31   Comptroller and Auditor General's Memorandum, Figure 11, para 3.21 Back

32   Q 10 Back

33   Qq 80-81 Back

34   Ev 15, letter from Royal Household to PAC Chair 21 October 2013 Back

35   Comptroller and Auditor General's Memorandum, paras 3.20-3.22, Figure 11 Back

36   Qq 81-88  Back

37   'Royal Travel by Air and Rail', Sixtieth Report of Session 2001-02, HC 529, 17 July 2002 Back

38   Comptroller and Auditor General's Memorandum, Figure 10 Back

39   Qq 89-94  Back

40   Qq 89-99 Back

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Prepared 28 January 2014