Britain's royal family spends tax-payers' millions on garden parties and vacations

Almost everyone has ever dreamt to be a king or president of some country. However, only few realize that to rule a country is a very expensive pleasure. And the British royalty is a very good example to it.

The Royal Family in Great Britain received £37.4m (1£ = 1.85$) from the public purse last year - an increase of 4.2 per cent from the previous year.

Pressure increased on the Queen, whose private wealth is estimated to be £2bn, to open the financial books still further by revealing the tax she voluntarily pays to the Treasury, just days after Prince Charles set a precedent by revealing his tax secrets.

For the first time, the Prince of Wales acknowledged that he pays £3.3m in tax. The Queen agreed to pay tax when John Major was Prime Minister, but the amount she pays remains firmly under wraps. "We take a strong view that the Queen's private finances are, like any other individual, private and she is entitled to have her privacy," said one senior Palace aide.

The Queen receives £11.2m from the civil list for public duties as head of state and for staff costs. The royal accounts gave no details about her private income from estates such as Sandringham , but focused on expenditure by the Royal Family on public duties in this country and abroad, and on the upkeep of the royal palaces.

The cost of royal flights also increased by £600,000, to a total bill of £4.6m, despite criticism last year of costs generated by some members of the Royal Family, including Prince Andrew's use of helicopters.

The following are other expenses of the Royal Family.

Staff £8.2m

The Queen employs a total of 310 staff at the palaces. Total payroll cost: £8.2m a year paid for by the taxpayer on the civil list.

The number of staff has gone up slightly from 307 in 2004. The household staff total 176. Three extra staff had to be hired to handle freedom of information inquiries, even though the palace is exempt from the law.

Staff numbers include 36 at Buckingham Palace and St James's Palace, and 21 at Kensington palace, Hampton Court and Windsor Castle maintenance office. There are 15 craftsmen carrying out repairs to the historic buildings who cost about £500,000 a year. Palace gardeners cost £400,000 a year.

About £300,000 was paid in overtime, the same as the previous year, arising from attendance at evening receptions and weekend working when the palace state apartments are open to the public. Perks include some live-in accommodation, attractive surroundings to work in, and Palace officials said the royal swimming pool at Buckingham Palace may be made available to them. Staff may also use the police gym at Buckingham Palace .

Buildings & Palaces £15.7m

Six royal palaces and other buildings and gardens such as the Royal Mews and the Great Parks at Windsor cost £15.7m to keep up - an increase of £700,000 on the previous year. This was partly offset by revenue from entrance charges on open days totalling £1.4m - a rise of £300,000.

The taxpayer pays £15m a year towards the upkeep of the palaces as historic buildings. Palace officials revealed they are seeking a £1m a year increase, plus inflation, in the grant supplied by Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, because many of the buildings are in urgent need of repairs.

Garden Parties £600,000

Five garden parties were held at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse attended by 31,000 people from town mayors, clergymen and councillors to the armed services, voluntary workers, award winners and celebrities. The cost of the garden parties is borne by the taxpayer on the Civil List. They cost £600,000 last year compared with £500,000 the year before. Food and kitchens costs were £400,000 but the total cost of catering and hospitality for the royal palaces was £1.4m including state banquets and the Queen has wine - in cellars to age - worth more than £400,000.

Last year the Palace complained that on average guests took 14 items from the buffet at the garden parties. This year the caterers put out larger items to try to cut down the number of sandwiches, cakes, pastries and strawberries, but they still took on average 14 items. The total cost of keeping up the gardens and the mews where the Queen's carriages are kept was £400,000.

Travel - trains, planes & cars £5.5m

A total of £5.5m was spent by the Royal Family on travel - an increase of 10 per cent - thatismet by the taxpayer as grant in aid. The cost of royal flights also increased by £600,000 to a total bill of £4.6m, in spite of criticism of the cost of air travel last year by some members of the Royal Family, including Prince Andrew's use of helicopters.

The Royal Family has a fleet of private jets at their disposal operated by RAF 32 Squadron comprising two 26-seat BAe 146 planes and five seven-seat HS 125s. They are also used by Tony Blair and members of the Cabinet.

The mileage cost was £13 for air travel and £41 for rail travel. The Royal Train cost £600,000 last year and was used on 14 occasions - five fewer than the year before.

That means the average cost of each train journey was £43,000. The average distance travelled was 700 miles, but some journeys were shorter, raising fresh questions about its future.

The Queen

Royal Train - Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh Perth to Windsor on 6-7 July last year after hosting G8 dinner . Cost: £28,913.

Euston to Perth 22-24 June Euston to Perth return. Cost: £31,927.

Charter flights - Charter flight to Australia and Singapore 10-18 March. Cost: £478,627. Queen paid £199,588.

The Queen used the royal helicopter and flight BAe 146 to travel every day to Royal Ascot last June when it moved to York temporarily. Cost: £11,950.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall

Royal Train - Kemble, Gloucestershire, last July and on to Carmarthen , Neath and Machynlleth in Wales . Cost: £37,033.

13-14 September from Euston to Northallerton to visit the Northern Dales Farmers' Market. Cost: £18,603.

Charter flights - Egypt , Saudi Arabia and India in March. Cost: £304,000.

America last November - Camilla's first overseas tour. Cost: £280,186.

Chartered helicopter - Colne in Lancashire to Buckingham Palace last October. Cost: £7,849

Prince Andrew, Duke of York

Chartered flights: round trip from the Isle of Man to Scotland for a meeting of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club for the "driving-in" ceremony for the new golf club captain on 21-22 September last year. Cost: £11,555. Prince Andrew chartered a private jet to take him after the RAF plane broke down. He paid £155 out of his own pocket towards the cost.

Prince Edward, the Earl and Countess of Wessex

Chartered flights - Sullom Ve terminal in Shetland and return to Farnborough on 7-8 September last year. Cost: £11,403.

Princess Anne, the Princess Royal

Chartered flights - Beijing on a scheduled flight on 19 September. Cost: £26,763. BAe 146 from Beijing to East Timor and Papua New Guinea . Cost: £127,011.

Recces: It cost a total of £44,885 for the staff of the Prince of Wales to fly to the United States on various dates last year before his visit.

What we don't know

The Queen's total wealth is probably more than £2bn, making her the richest woman in Britain , but it is not known how much she pays in tax. She agreed to pay tax under an agreement reached with John Major's government, but it has never been disclosed how much is paid and on what. The Prince of Wales this week revealed he paid £3.3m in tax. But the Palace yesterday insisted that the Queen is "entitled to her privacy" and had no plans to detail her tax expenditure either now or in the future.

The Palace accounts published yesterday do not mention her private wealth. That includes 50,000 acres of woodlands and castle at the Balmoral Estate in Scotland ; and the Sandringham Estate incorporating many tenanted houses. The real estate is estimated to be worth more than £200m. The Monarch also has private investments worth £520m. Jewellery said to be worth £130m and an art collection conservatively estimated at £1bn.

Her private income is in part generated from the Duchy of Lancaster estates, held in trust for the Sovereign since 1399. Worth: £308m. Gross income: £13 m.

As head of state, the Queen holds the Crown Estates, worth £700m covering 260,000 acres. The Queen pays for members of the Royal Family on the Civil List. Revenue from the Crown Estates totalling £184.8m goes to the Treasury.

Source: The Independent

Prepared by Alexander Timoshik

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Author`s name Alex Naumov