Royal Finances 2022-23: how the Sovereign Grant was spent

The report shows the cost of running the Royal Family in the last 12 months

Buckingham Palace has issued its annual financial statement, more commonly known as the Sovereign Grant Report, for the financial year April 2022 – March 2023.

According to the report, the Sovereign Grant for the last 12 months totalled £86.3 million (the same as the 2021-22 financial year). It is the equivalent to £1.29 per person in the UK.

However, spending increased by 5% to £107.5 million, as inflation (marked at 10.1%) and the cost of the accession took their toll on the accounts.

The State Carriages for the South African visit approach Buckingham Palace, November 2022 (MOD)

The shortfall was made up from drawing on £20.7m from reserves of previous years.

How is the money given to the palace calculated? 

The Monarch owns the Crown Estate, effectively a property business that is run independently from the palace. They have no say in the running of the estate and do not take any profits from the estate.

When George III relinquished his income from the Crown Estate in 1760, the Civil List provided for the Royal Family.

The Civil List was replaced by the Sovereign Support Grant in 2012, which is based on the success of the Crown Estate. Usually, the Privy Purse receives an amount equal to 15% of Crown Estate Profits for the last two years, but at present it receives an amount equal to 25% to help fund the decade-long refurbishment of Buckingham Palace.

Crown Estate profits for the financial year 2020-21 amounted to £269.3 million, therefore producing a Sovereign Grant of £51.8 million for 2022-23, with an additional 10%.

What was the money spent on? 

Staffing: This formed the largest part of spending for the year. Numbers of staff increased by 26, to 517 for this financial year (22 permanent, 4 contract). The report indicates this takes staffing to pre-Covid levels.

Wages took £26.9 million from the Sovereign Support Grant, an increase of £3.2 million (+12%); £11 million was spent within the Privy Purse and Treasurer’s office, the highest of any department.

The report also records the gender pay gap as 5.71% (down from 8.57% the year previous) vs the national gender pay gap of 14.9%.

Travel: A major expense for the Royal Family every year is official travel. Last year, the cost of the Royal Family’s travel for official work and visits came to £3.9 million This covers the cost of cars, the royal train, the royal helicopter and flights abroad on official business.

Members of the Royal Family do sometimes take commercial flights to cut back on costs but also to consider the environmental factor.

The Queen and The Duchess of Sussex depart the Royal train as they arrive in Cheshire, June 2018 (Kensington Palace)

Members of the Royal Family participated in 2,715 official engagements across the UK and overseas in the last 12 months, up from 2,312 on the previous year. The King undertook 565 official engagements (205 of which were as the Prince of Wales) and The Queen undertook 213 engagements (82 as The Duchess of Cornwall); 133 of these were joint engagements.

Elizabeth II undertook 201 official engagements from 1 April 2022 to 8 September.

The most expensive flights were:

– £186,571 – a charter flight for The King and Queen (then Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall) to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanada, where additional engagements were also carried out.
– £146,219 – a charter flight for the first Official Overseas State Visit of The King and Queen to travel to Germany.
– £85,069 – a charter flight for The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh (then Earl and Countess of Wessex) for their Platinum Jubilee tour of St Lucia, St Vincent and Antigua.
– £51,108 – a charter flight for The Princess Royal for her Platinum Jubilee Tour of Papua New Guinea.
– £48,000 – a commercial flight for The Prince and Princess of Wales to Boston for the Earthshot Prize Awards.
– £43,335 – a charter flight for The King and Queen to Scotland and Northern Ireland, for their visit following Elizabeth II’s death.

Entertaining: When it came to official hospitality and housekeeping, the Royal Family spent £2.4 million last year. Between Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, St. James Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, there were 107 receptions, 142 lunches, 44 investitures, seven garden parties and 38 dinners during the year.

Over 95,000 guests were welcomed and entertained at the royal residences and a total of £1.5 million was used from the Privy Purse on food and drink.

Prince William and Kate lead a Buckingham Palace Garden Party, May 2022

State occasions: The Platinum Jubilee cost £700,000, while Elizabeth II’s funeral amounted to £1.6million.

Bills: Utilities cost the Palace £4.5 million.

Housekeeping and office costs: As far as household spending went, the bill for cleaning and laundry came to £900,000 and £1.2 million went into buying stationery items, as well as printing, and postage.

2022-23 marked the busiest year on record for incoming post, with Buckingham Palace receiving 183,207 items of correspondence from across the globe. This included 67,963 items received in the five months prior to the passing of Elizabeth II, and 115,244 items received in the seven months after her death.

A lot of people like to write to the Royals, especially around the time of birthdays and major moments such as Trooping!

Additionally, the Palace received 50,856 applications to the Anniversaries Office, which are for people to receive a royal card on the occasion of a 100th birthday, or 60th wedding anniversary. Of these, 34,576 applications related to anniversary cards and 9,060 related to milestone birthdays.

Security costs do not form part of the Sovereign Grant, and come from Home Office budgets via the Met Police.

Palace refurbishments: Buckingham Palace is undergoing a 10-year renovation plan, due to finish in 2027. Electrics, plumbing and heating have not been updated at the main residence since the 1950s.

£34.5 million was allocated to this work on the historic building, but a total of £43 million was spent on reservicing. This included work on the West Wing and the West Gallery, two new lift shafts and guest toilets in the East Wing, which will ‘help make the Palace more accessible’.

A further £14 million was spent on other property maintenance.

HR: The report also acknowledged HR updates. During the last 12 months, the Royal Household has been faced by allegations of racism. As such, a new Inclusion and Diversity strategy and action plan has been implemented, supported by a specially-formed working group with representation from across the household.

This has seen the introduction of a suite of education resources and learning programmes for all leaders and employees ‘designed to build knowledge, understanding and capability, to promote a positive and inclusive working culture’.

Reflecting on the year 2022-23, the Keeper of the Privy Purse, Sir Michael Stevens, said: ‘The year covered in today’s report represents an exceptional period of transition for the Royal Household. As we look back on those 12 months, we reflect on how the nation came together to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in June, and to mourn Her Late Majesty in September while marking the Accession of The King, as well as the months of preparation leading up to Their Majesties’ Coronation.’

Sir Michael added how this year has seen the return of many events that had been missing from the calendar throughout the pandemic, including Garden Parties, the Maundy Service (which took place at York Minster), Garter Day, and the first State Visits of The King’s reign, where Their Majesties visited Germany and welcomed the President of South Africa to London.

‘Like other organisations, the Royal Household has not been immune to the impacts of the joint challenges of the pandemic and inflationary pressures, which have resulted in a flat Sovereign Grant.

‘The figure for the year remained unchanged at £86.3 million, with a significant proportion funding the Reservicing of Buckingham Palace, which is now in its seventh year. This figure will remain unchanged at £86.3 million for the year 2023-24.’

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