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British MPs criticise Queen's household finances

British lawmakers on Tuesday urged Queen Elizabeth II's royal household to further reduce running costs and get to grips with a backlog of property repairs.

LONDON: British lawmakers on Tuesday urged Queen Elizabeth II's royal household to further reduce running costs and get to grips with a backlog of property repairs.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report revealed that Queen's reserves were down to £1 million ($1.65 million, 1.2 million euros) after the household ran a deficit of £2.3 million in 2012-13, a figure it called "an historically low level of contingence".

"There is scope for the household to generate more income and reduce its costs further," said committee chairman Margaret Hodge.

"Since 2007-08, the household has cut its net costs by 16 per cent in real terms, but 11 per cent of that was achieved by increasing income, and just 5 per cent by reducing expenditure.

"With better commercial expertise in place, we think there is room to do more with less, reducing costs further and supporting the Queen's programme more effectively," she added.

The committee was tasked with examining the Sovereign Grant, the financial system that funds the monarchy.

The report warned that large sums of money were needed to maintain "nationally important heritage properties", such as London's Victoria and Albert Mausoleum, which has been waiting 18 years for repair work.

Reported problems at Buckingham Palace include leaks in the picture gallery roof, which require buckets in wet weather, 60-year-old boilers and the presence of large amounts of asbestos.

Windsor Castle is also reportedly in need of extensive roof repairs and a new water main.

"The household must get a much firmer grip on how it plans to address its maintenance backlog," said Hodge.

The chairman criticised the country's treasury for failing to properly scrutinise the household's plans.

"We feel that the Queen has not been served well by the household and by the Treasury, which is responsible for effective scrutiny of the household's financial planning and management," she explained.

"We believe that the Treasury has a duty to be actively involved in reviewing the household's financial planning and management - and it has failed to do so."

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman responded: "The royal household was charged by the PAC in 2009 to generate more income to supplement the funding it receives from Government. This has been done successfully.

"A significant financial priority for the royal household is to reduce the backlog in essential maintenance across the occupied royal palaces," she added.

"Recent examples of work include the renewal of a lead roof over the royal library at Windsor and the removal of asbestos from the basement of Buckingham Palace. The need for property maintenance is continually assessed."

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