Queen Elizabeth II to trim costs as COVID-19 hits income

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her family are facing a 35 million pound ($45 million) hit from the coronavirus pandemic. (File/AP)
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Updated 25 September 2020

Queen Elizabeth II to trim costs as COVID-19 hits income

  • The accounts show that the monarchy cost British taxpayers $88.2 million in the year to the end of March
  • Officials have said the palace’s aging infrastructure is at risk of a catastrophic failure if it’s not replaced

LONDON: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her family are facing a 35 million pound ($45 million) hit from the coronavirus pandemic, partly due to a shortage of tourists, the monarch’s money-manager said Friday.
Releasing the royal household’s annual accounts, Keeper of the Privy Purse Michael Stevens said a lack of income from visitors to royal buildings was likely to bring a general funding shortfall of 15 million pounds ($19 million) over three years.
He said the impact of the pandemic is also likely to cause a 20 million-pound ($25.4 million) shortfall in a 10-year, 369-million-pound program to replace antiquated heating, plumbing and wiring at Buckingham Palace, the queen’s London home.
Officials have said the palace’s aging infrastructure, which had its last major upgrade after World War II, is at risk of a catastrophic failure if it’s not replaced.
Stevens said the royal household would not ask for more government money but would “look to manage the impact through our own efforts and efficiencies.”
Buckingham Palace has already introduced a staff pay freeze and a halt to hiring.
The accounts show that the monarchy cost British taxpayers 69.4 million pounds ($88.2 million) in the year to the end of March, an increase of 2.4 million ($3.1 million) on the previous financial year.
The accounts also show that Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, paid an undisclosed sum to reimburse the public purse for rent and refurbishment of their Frogmore Cottage home near Windsor Castle. The exact sum will appear in next year’s accounts. The renovation costs alone for the home were 2.4 million pounds ($3.1 million.)
Harry, 36 and the former Meghan Markle, 39, married at Windsor Castle in May 2018. The couple announced early this year they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said was the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California.
Harry and Meghan signed a lucrative deal this month to produce nature series, documentaries and children’s programming for streaming service Netflix.


UK’s Sunak to unveil more job support as COVID cases mount

Updated 2 min 41 sec ago

UK’s Sunak to unveil more job support as COVID cases mount

  • Firms that are required to close entirely will be able to furlough staff on two thirds of their pay
  • British government borrowing is on course to reach its highest since World War Two this financial year

LONDON: British finance minister Rishi Sunak looks set to unveil more support for businesses and workers hit by rising COVID cases later on Thursday, when he updates parliament on the outlook for the economy.
Sunak is due to address parliament around 1030 GMT, in a hastily arranged briefing at a time when there has been growing political anger that economic support is falling away while coronavirus restrictions tighten for many firms.
“Hopefully this afternoon we’ll see the chancellor tack a little bit, trim the sails, to make sure we’re getting the right balance to support the economy properly,” Malthouse told the BBC, adding that lawmakers had received lots of complaints.
Britain has suffered Europe’s highest death toll from coronavirus, as well as the severest economic hit of any major advanced economy. Cases are now climbing again rapidly, with a record 26,688 new cases reported on Wednesday.
However, the country’s main furlough scheme — which supported 9 million jobs at its peak, and is still heavily used in the hospitality industry — will end on Oct. 31.
Firms that are required to close entirely will be able to furlough staff on two thirds of their pay — less than the previous 80 percent — but others get much less support.
Unlike short-time working schemes elsewhere in Europe, from next month businesses which bring staff back part-time must pay staff for some of the hours they do not work, in order for workers to be eligible for a government top-up payment.
“Making the Job Support Scheme work better for firms by reducing employer contributions ... would be a significant — and very welcome — change,” the Resolution Foundation think tank said.
Many lockdown measures in Britain do not require businesses to close outright but significantly restrict trade, for example by barring pubs and restaurants from serving groups of people who do not live in the same household, or opening after 10 p.m.
Thursday’s statement was announced late on Wednesday, after the government canceled a planned review of public spending over the next three years, and looks set to be the third time in under a month that Sunak has adjusted job support plans.
Sunak said on Wednesday that supporting jobs remained the government’s priority, but he would need to take steps to ensure the public finances remained sustainable once economic recovery was under way.
British government borrowing is on course to reach its highest since World War Two this financial year.