Buckingham Palace should be open all year round – like the Vatican and the White House – to pay for its upkeep, according to anti-monarchy group Republic.
This weekend the palace welcomed its first paying visitors since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
But after the cost of refurbishment ramped up this year ahead of the platinum jubilee – building work paid for by the taxpayer – questions have been raised about who should pay the price.
Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, said Buckingham Palace was important for the nation and should not be neglected.
But something must change especially now that the Queen is spending more time at Windsor, he said.
He told Sky News: “MPs for years have been saying you need to open up the palace to tourists all year round.
“With that ticket revenue that you raise you’ll then be able to fund these sorts of repairs and restorations without coming back to the Treasury.
“We have hospitals and schools, police services struggling to make ends meet.
‘An absurd waste of money’
“We have arguments about public sector pay being kept down and all the while we’re pouring millions and millions of pounds into fixing this one building.
“It is an absurd waste of money.”
Explaining how palace officials have been under pressure for years to change the funding status, he added: “It was pointed out that the Vatican was open all year round, the home of the Catholic Church.
“It was pointed out the White House is open to tourists most of the year, the home of the President of the United States.
“So at any point Buckingham Palace should be open all year round, but it is now largely a ghost building, people don’t live there.
“The Queen is in Windsor, Charles lives in Clarence House or Highgrove or one of his other many homes, and it is largely just housing staff as far as I’m aware.
“There just is no justification for leaving it standing there unused, all year round, except for the occasional garden party.”
A popular tourist attraction
The Queen decided to open the palace to the public 30 years ago, following a fire at Windsor Castle.
The idea was that the income from visitors to Buckingham Palace would help pay for the repairs needed at the castle.
The first visitors arrived in the following summer in 1993.
This year visitors can see an exhibition marking the platinum jubilee as well as the results of the refurbishment.
The repairs are funded from the sovereign grant – that means taxpayers’ money.
In 2017 MPs controversially agreed the grant would be increased over 10 years to allocate £369m to refurbish Buckingham Palace.
The costs last year were the highest yet at £47.8m – £16.2m more than the year before.
There is no doubt that every summer the opening at Buckingham Palace is a popular tourist attraction, and in years where there are big royal celebrations, the interest is even greater.
‘The interest really comes from Her Majesty the Queen herself’
Caroline de Guitaut, who curated the Platinum Jubilee exhibition, told Sky News: “I think these exhibitions and displays really do undoubtedly increase interest, but I think the interest really comes from Her Majesty the Queen herself.
“She obviously is a global figure and the sheer scale of the celebrations and the interest around the Platinum Jubilee which we celebrated just a few weeks ago I think is indicative of how that really manifests itself.”
The exhibition charts the Queen’s reign through photos, including those taken by acclaimed society photographer Dorothy Wilding.
These were used to produce stamps and banknotes featuring images of the head of state.
There are also pieces of jewellery from the monarch’s collection.
The opening of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace runs until 2 October.