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Why the chopper and palace repair stories are a fuss over nothing

Yesterday evening, the mainstream media treated us to a series of stories whose central themes were to try and underline the cost of the Monarchy to taxpayers. In case you didn’t see, the first one of interest was from the Daily Mirror that was entirely wrong in all but one detail on the Royal Household leasing a new helicopter. The second piece, perhaps more invidious in its approach, was based around reported increased costs for improvements and repairs to Kensington Palace.

origin_2929007588As everyone knows, the end of June is always a hot time for discussing royal finances as the impeding Sovereign Grant report on the Household’s management of funding the past year is released around this time, but this year some media outlets made a particular effort to get their readers worked up in a royal fuss over nothing.

The helicopter story in the Daily Mirror today says that Prince William has been gifted a new £8m helicopter as a present from The Queen. Within 10 minutes of this story going out, I was able to have the veracity of the story checked and the response I got certainly leaves a lot to be desired on the part of the Mirror.

Firstly, the helicopter is leased (not bought) and so nowhere near £8m is being paid by the Royal Household. Secondly, the helicopter is forming part of The Queen’s Helicopter Flight for use by all members of the Royal Family, in fact Prince William hasn’t even used it yet whilst Princess Beatrice was the first royal seen to make use of the new chopper on an engagement in Lincolnshire earlier in the week.

The most important fact to note here also is that the cost of leasing this helicopter is met by existing funding in the Royal Household, that is to say it comes at no extra cost to the taxpayer as it is covered by the Sovereign Grant (the fixed amount The Queen receives every year to cover her expenses).

Republicans were quick to jump on their high horse on Twitter, moving their followers into a tax-based frenzy of outrage though it didn’t seem any of them had read beyond the headline in their hysteria because they all seemed to be under the impression that this helicopter now incurs millions of pounds in cost on the taxpayer. As we know now, it pays to check the facts, even if you’re a republican.

The second article which didn’t really add up to much was the Daily Mail’s indignation over the increase in cost for repairs to Kensington Palace (a publicly owned building) for which the bill was incurred on the taxpayer. Leaving aside the obvious tendency for the Mail to sensationalise stories and ensure their readers are slamming their fists in fury on the breakfast table, at least this article had a bit more substance… Though it wasn’t much better.

Outrage at the “£4m cost” was false for two reasons. Firstly, as a publicly owned building, not owned by the Royal Family, the state has a responsibility to maintain the building as a place of historic and cultural significance. But the main substance of the point is that the repairs to the Palace were not personal furnishings, nor redecorating costs but were in fact essential repairs that would have been required irrespective of who was occupying the palace, including repairs to the Palace’s roof, plumbing system and an overhaul of the electric circuitry in the palace.

It was made patently clear that the cost of furnishing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s apartments was met by them.

Perhaps today shows more than anything how an ounce of restraint to check the facts before becoming incensed at how “taxpayer’s money is spent so profligately” goes a long way.

photo credit: UGArdener via photopin cc

  • Jose Elizabeth Allen Hawkins

    This silly fuss would cease if the Government refunded the Royal money that was given them in the nineteenth century. Then the Royal household could run their own affairs and not be constantly harassed over how much they cost. …..But of course we do understand that, probably like all governments they have siphoned off that money to pay for their own extravagances and have now drained the fund dry.

  • micmac

    I did see the DM article and find it irritating that the costs seem blown out of all proportion. Last year there was the same fuss over essential repairs to Kensington Palace. This Million Pound endeavour seems to have been included as part of last year’s budget. The implication seems to be that it wasn’t paid at all, and that extra costs have been tacked on since. Notably for an industrial/commercial sized main kitchen which would be ideal for conferences, banquets and wedding receptions. I daresay Apartment 1A might need such facilities for entertainment. But, by and large, wouldn’t a private area be for everyday living, with a more everyday sort of kitchen?

    Then there was the amount of rooms the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge actually live in. All through last year, depending on who wrote the article and what sort of angst was being stirred up, the number of these rooms varied from 20 to 57. Eventually they settled on 20 rooms. But in the DM article the rooms suddenly went up to at least 22 rooms. Now places of residence don’t suddenly sprout an extra couple of rooms, unless there are caravan or tent lodgings down the back. It would be nice if everyone could agree on just how many rooms are part of Apartment 1A and everyone should stick to that number whatever they are trying to imply. Otherwise, wouldn’t the Cambridges’ neighbours get a bit miffed at the room pinching? Especially if things like roofing, asbestos removal etc had also affected their apartments?

    Then there were the pictures in the article. One dated from Princess Margaret’s tenure. Another picture was of part of Kensington Palace I saw in another article about the wedding reception area, which may well have upgraded their kitchen. I’ve actually visited Kensington Palace as a tourist, and others of the DM pictures seem to be of the public area where you may find state rooms and one where an obelisk on a hexagonal plinth takes pride of place.
    Of course there is going to be the usual dismay and disgust on DM over how much of taxpayer’s money is being used to fund the Royal lifestyle. But isn’t the government liable for the public facilities which earn it money? What about offices and the staff who work there? On the one hand the DM reports that Prince Charles is helping, and on other occasions that the Queen, herself, has supplied some of the decorations. But then the DM seems to lump all costs together to inflate the amount of money spent on Kensington Palace.

    Anyway, thank you, Royal Central, for your more factual article.

  • Edward Dawson

    How ever much the media try to raise angst among the public, these stories intimately fail. Being the Royal Family costs money, and a helicopter is not cheap. There is no extravagance here, and the Queen is know for her care not to waste money.

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