By Gregory Katz The Associated Press
LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II is costing British taxpayers a bit more this year.
Official financial figures published Thursday reveal that overall costs have gone up in part because of a 10-year program to refit aging Buckingham Palace, the queen’s official residence in central London.
Officials say many of the palace’s heating, electrical and plumbing systems have not been updated since the 1950s and that extensive work is needed.
Michael Stevens, who holds the title Keeper of the Privy Purse that represents his financial management role, says the refurbishment is urgently needed “to help avert the very real danger of a catastrophic building failure such as in a flood or fire.”
The palace will remain open and operational during the renovation.
Stevens said there are three generations of the royal family working to support the queen for the first time since the reign of Queen Victoria. Prince William and Prince Harry have taken more active roles in the last year, adding to official costs.
Taxpayer funds used to cover official duties and other costs increased from 42.8 million pounds ($56 million) in the last financial year to 45.7 million pounds for the financial year that ended on March 31. Palace officials say the cost of payroll, travel and property maintenance all increased.
Travel costs, for example, increased from 4.5 million pounds to 4.7 million pounds. The priciest voyage was a trip by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla to India, Malaysia, Bruneil and Singapore. That totalled about 362,000 pounds ‚Äî in part because of the use of the Royal Air Force Voyager plane.
Charles, who has increasingly stepped in for his mother the queen at royal events, also made extensive use of the royal train for official travel inside Britain at a cost of roughly 20,000 pounds per trip.
The financial report says the 92-year-old queen carried out 154 official engagements during the financial year, including visiting victims of the extremist attack on Manchester Arena. She also carried out lighter duties, including her first ever appearance at a London Fashion Week catwalk show.
Her 97-year-old husband, Prince Philip, made 57 official appearances before retiring during the summer.
The report also points out that the queen entertains 132,000 people a year at Buckingham Palace events including garden parties, investitures and receptions.