According to the website IncomeTax.com, for every £1 we spend on the Royal Family we receive £7 back. A return of 7-1 which is pretty good. With such a return how could anybody be crazy enough to want to do away with the Royal Family? I’m convinced. After all why would a website that does not include any details on who runs it try to bamboozle me? It couldn’t happen, could it?
But, hold on, something doesn’t seem quite right, so let’s investigate these figures a little more. Though I have to say I am going to take some convincing that the Royals are not great value for money.
How does IncomeTax.com reach its conclusion? As their starting point they take the calculations from the Royal Household Financial Report, which in 2021 reported that the Royals received £87.5 million from the taxpayer. In 2022 it was £102.4, that’s an increase of 17% by the way.
I don’t want to get distracted here but what group of workers has managed to get a 17% pay rise this year? Certainly not nurses who are fighting to get a pay rise in line with inflation. Not railway workers. Not teachers who have been offered 4.3% (but not until next year). Not even Government favourites (as they pretty much keep them in power) – pensioners who received 10.1%.
Worth every penny
Whilst most of our free press is quick to point out what a great contribution the Royals make to our lives, they are rather more reticent when it comes to other workers. The Daily Express, for example, a fine newspaper I’m sure you’ll all agree, ran a story about the teachers in which their readers (I know it’s a shock to me that most of them can read, as well) in which they included quotes accusing teachers of being “greedy” for wanting a pay rise in line with inflation. I suppose there is a genuine difference between the Royal Family and real workers. When teachers or nurses go on strike it actually inconveniences other people because the work they do is essential. If the Royals were to ever go on strike it is hard to imagine what impact that would have on anybody. In fact, they may well be on strike now, who would know?
Let’s return though to the 17% pay rise (don’t worry I haven’t forgotten that I’m supposed to be proving what a great asset they are). In the notes to the Royal Household Finance document we find this explanation: the 17% “was driven by spending totalling £54.6m on the reservicing of Buckingham Palace – an increase of 41%.” To put this in simple terms, the Royal Family had to spend more than expected on housing costs. We note that no nurse, teacher, railway worker or pensioner ever has to spend a penny on maintaining their home. But if they did rest assured they could claim it back from the taxpayer. That’s right isn’t it? That extension that your neighbour has just had built is entirely funded from the public purse and don’t let them tell you otherwise!
Now, IncomeTax.com calculates their £1 per person cost on the basis that every single taxpayer should pay for the Royals. Well, to be fair, ‘should’ doesn’t really come into it, because nobody is going to ask you whether you want to contribute. It’s like one of those raffles in your local pub where the person gives you the ticket and demands a pound whether you wanted to take part or not.
Not many pennies at that
There were, according to government figures, 32.2 million taxpayers in 2021, a figure which rose to 32.7 million in 2022. So we take the £87.5 million and divide it by 32.2 million to get a cost per taxpayer, meaning that every taxpayer is paying £2.57p, which has risen to £3.13p in 2022. IncomeTax.com claims in their article that we are all paying £2.60p, so it turns out that they are even cheaper than we originally thought. I am a little confused, however, that they claim only 31.4 million taxpayers, but, according to the official figures, we have never had 31.4 million taxpayers. One would not want to suggest that their figures are wrong and that, in some way, should make us suspicious of everything that they say, but if you can’t even read a figure off a spreadsheet how reliable are you?
A side thought. There are currently 629,000 highest rate taxpayers in the UK. To pay the highest rate of income tax you must earn (I use the word earn guardedly) in excess of £150,000. If each of those people were to fund the Royal Family through a voluntary donation it would cost them just 44p per day. I can’t imagine that somebody with a declared income of £150k couldn’t afford 44p per day can you?
Perhaps the Royals could arrange to take it in turns to stand outside shareholders’ meetings with a collecting tin, much as people who want to fund cancer research have to. If they took the corgis along that would be sure to get them some sympathy and the generosity of those who make their money off the backs of others’ labour would soon fund their palaces, yachts, helicopters, race horses etc. This would then take the pressure off the 27.2 million basic rate taxpayers who currently have to find £86 million between them for a Royal Family which, current polling suggests, most of them do not really care too much about.
A recent survey by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) shows public support for the monarchy has fallen to a historic low. A total of 45% of respondents said either it should be abolished, was not at all important or not very important. Among younger respondents that figure rose to a clear majority who were less than enthusiastic about the Royal Family, perhaps not realising that they were quids in because of the royals.
IncomeTax.com, having done their best to convince us that we are hardly paying anything for the Royals, then informs us that the Royals bring in £1.7 billion a year. That is seven times more than they cost. Yes! Seven times more income than expenditure. Those people who want to abolish the monarchy do not realise how much they will cost the country. Clearly.
So let’s have a look at that figure. I had imagined that perhaps the Royal Family spent much time in a pottery creating those little plates that people put on their walls because….. Sorry, lost now, why on earth do people put crockery on their walls? ….. And that they sold these on eBay bringing in millions of pounds each year.
This year I’m off to sunny Buckingham Palace
In fact the vast majority of that figure is based on an estimate of £550 million brought in each year via tourism. The suggestion is that, if the Royal Family was abolished, we would lose that money and that would make us all around £3.50p less well off.
If this were true, then countries with monarchies would be well ahead of countries without monarchies in the world tourism charts.
As of 2019, things have not quite returned to normal yet post-Covid, the most visited country in the world was France and we all know what happened to their monarchy. The UK was 10th on the list behind other non-monarchy countries including the USA, China, Italy and Turkey. Of the monarchies on the list Spain is second in the chart and we all know that millions of Brits head to Spain each summer so that they can take in the cultural heritage to be found in English-themed pubs and bars on the Costa Del Sol. The only other monarchy on the Top Ten list is Thailand which, according to the website Amorq is the number one sex tourism destination in the world. The point being that it is highly unlikely that the existence of a royal family is the prime reason anybody visits a country and that tourism, as important as it is, would continue whether a royal family existed or not.
In fact, the £1.7 billion figure is based on estimates from royalists Brand Finance who make claims that are simply unjustifiable such as this: “Another key benefit to the UK economy is delivered by the Monarchy through trade, with an estimated annual contribution at £150 million.” At no point in their rather tendentious narrative do they explain exactly where this figure comes from, neither do they give a reasonable account of any of their other figures. It is, in short, an article of faith. The fact is that countries without a royal family either outperform or are on a par with the UK in almost every aspect of economic life. Surely, if a royal family was worth that much to their economies we would see America, China, Russia and France etc. reinstating their royal families for the financial gain it would produce? It is worth noting that all of these economies have outperformed the monarchist UK consistently for a number of years despite not having a royal family to promote them.
The true cost of the monarchy revealed
A more accurate figure of income associated with the Royal Family is provided by their own accounts in which their accounted for income was £9.9 million in 2022 compared to their expenditure which was £102.4 million. Far from earning us £7 for every pound we spend, the Royal Family actually costs us £10.34p for every pound they earn. Not such a good deal after all, then?
For royalists the idea that we pay a mere £3.60 for what is, after all, their vanity project is not only acceptable but we should continue to be grateful to support a family that in recent times has resembled a very poorly written soap opera where racism appears to be endemic, where a member who hangs out with a known sexual predator is provided with cover to protect the brand, where serial adultery is overlooked and where, beyond waving at us from a balcony, the entire family is unaccountable to the people who are expected to pay for them.
If we have £102.4 million to spend every year, perhaps we could think about giving every single nurse in the UK £132 a year, every year, because, although nobody makes tenuous claims for their effect on tourism and trade, there is little doubt that almost every person in the UK has benefitted from their work, in one way or another, during their lifetime. Not something that anybody could seriously claim for the House of Windsor.
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Socialist of many years. Former Labour member. Currently presenter of The Socialist Hour.