Indy’s coup against royal secrecy

Friends and foes alike of the monarchy (and there are plenty of both in Slugger I’m certain) will be keen to learn many more baroque details of the Palace’s never-ending claims for more public spending on crumbling palaces, thanks to a long running FOI campaign by the Indy. The Government have 35 days to comply with the new Information Commissioner’s ruling ordering disclosure at last, in the teeth of silent but fierce royal opposition for many years. As scores of the tight-assed begging memos between palace and government tumble into the light for our pleasurable annoyance, the Indy should gets the full credit it deserves from the rest of Her Majesty’s Press – assuming the Palace doesn’t take the appeal route to a tribunal and finally to the Justice Secretary, which seems somehow infra dig. Arguments for fuller disclosure are that the Queen is a public official like all the others; arguments against are that she’s in a captive position unlike any other and isn’t easily subject to performance and efficiency measurement.(though the National Audit Office seem to disagree). Viewers who managed to stick with the excruciating C4 series The Queen are already fully briefed on how moolah has been a constant royal gripe for the past 57 years. We’re not there yet but the full cost of monarchy is gradually emerging. 69 p per head is a quoted PR-sounding figure but all bets are off when the royal settlement comes up for renegotiation in 2010. Now it’s all too easy to go all (small “r”) republican about this but that’s not where the British people are at, just now. As far as I know, Sandringham and Balmoral are not eligible because they are private property. Surely the way to deal with them is to open Windsor Castle, Kensington , St James and Buckingham Palaces much more and allow whole wings of them to be privately hired out as conference centres or used by government, like Holyrood, Hampton Court and our own little Hillsborough. (I admit it, I’m fascinated by this stuff) . Her Maj may value he privacy. But can she continue have to both ways any longer?

From the Indy story
“Palace officials admit they are still locked in a battle with Whitehall after the DCMS rejected a request for extra funds to repair the crumbling royal palaces, leaving the Queen in despair at her “patch and mend monarchy”. The backlog in essential maintenance is estimated at £40m, but staff have been given just £15m for the year.

The Queen is also negotiating with the Government over an increase in the Civil List. But MPs and taxpayers’ groups want a greater say in how the Royal Family is subsidised after a string of scandals over public money being spent on minor roles.

This year it emerged that £250,000 had been spent on redecorating Princess Beatrice’s university accommodation. The cash helped redecorate a private four-bed apartment at St James’s Palace for her use while she is a student. Last year Prince and Princess Michael of Kent were made to pay rent of £120,000 a year to stay in their Kensington Palace apartment, after almost seven years of paying only a nominal fee.”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London