Queen tried to get poverty fund to pay palace heating bill

Documents disclosed the Independent newspaper under a Freedom of Information Act request show that in 2004, aides to Queen Elizabeth asked to use funds from a program aimed a low-income Britons to pay the heating bill for some of her less prestigious relatives: [T]he Queen’s deputy treasurer wrote to the Department for Culture, Media and ...

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Documents disclosed the Independent newspaper under a Freedom of Information Act request show that in 2004, aides to Queen Elizabeth asked to use funds from a program aimed a low-income Britons to pay the heating bill for some of her less prestigious relatives:

[T]he Queen's deputy treasurer wrote to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to ask whether the Royal Household would be eligible for a grant to replace four combined heat and power (CHP) units at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

He asked: "Community Energy can fund up to 40 per cent of the capital costs of implementing a community heating scheme... Since we are already grant-in-aid funded [the Queen receives £15m a year for the upkeep of her palaces] we would like to know whether the Household [would] be able to benefit from these grants. I look forward to your comments."

Documents disclosed the Independent newspaper under a Freedom of Information Act request show that in 2004, aides to Queen Elizabeth asked to use funds from a program aimed a low-income Britons to pay the heating bill for some of her less prestigious relatives:

[T]he Queen’s deputy treasurer wrote to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to ask whether the Royal Household would be eligible for a grant to replace four combined heat and power (CHP) units at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

He asked: "Community Energy can fund up to 40 per cent of the capital costs of implementing a community heating scheme… Since we are already grant-in-aid funded [the Queen receives £15m a year for the upkeep of her palaces] we would like to know whether the Household [would] be able to benefit from these grants. I look forward to your comments."

Under this scheme administered by the Environment department, schools, hospitals, councils and housing associations have been awarded £60m for heating programmes which benefit people on low incomes.

Taxpayers already contribute £38m to pay for the Royal Family. Yet some of the buildings which would have benefited from the energy grant were occupied by minor royals living in grace and favour accommodation on the royal estates. Surprisingly the Government offered no resistance to the proposed application and cleared the way for the Queen to take advantage of the handout.

But by August 2004 the documents show that Whitehall officials had changed their minds and poured cold water on the whole idea. In an email sent to the Palace it was diplomatically explained that the funds were aimed at people on "low incomes".

The official wrote: "I think this is where the Community Energy Funding is directed and ties in with most allocations going to community heating schemes run by local authorities, housing associations, universities etc. I also feel a bit uneasy about the probable adverse press coverage if the Palace were given a grant at the expense of say a hospital. Sorry this doesn’t sound more positive."

That’s about the politest way I’ve ever seen someone say, "Are you people our of your minds?"

Palace officials have confirmed the account but say they weren’t aware the program was aimed at low-income people and were just trying to save the taxpayers money. Of course, some citizens have other ideas for how they could do that.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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