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The Under-Overpaid

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Although, during his speech congratulating his mother on having been queen for a long time, he mentioned that many people were suffering financial hardship, it’s clear that the Prince of Wales isn’t struggling to get by. Aside from his own personal fortune, he is in receipt this year of £18.3 million (a rise of 3 per cent) from the annual takings of the Duchy of Cornwall. This landed estate is given to the monarch in waiting. Since 1337, ‘the duchy’s main purpose has been to provide an income for the heir to the throne’. I don’t know who gives it, or how the money received from it can be described, as it is, as the prince’s ‘private income’, if the estate is owned by the Crown rather than the Windsors.

The prince’s website says that, after deducting his business expenses, he pays 50 per cent tax on the money from the duchy, and ‘chooses to use the majority of his after-tax income from the duchy to meet the cost of his public and charitable work’. That’s very nice of him, I’m sure, although I’m unclear about the distinction between ‘business expenses’ which are tax exempt and ‘the cost of his public and charitable work’ which he freely pays for out of this ‘private income’.

Then there’s the annual grant-in-aid to the Prince of Wales, which is extra public funding for his and his wife’s travel expenses on official engagements. For example, when the Prince and Camilla visited riot-torn London for a day last summer, they had to fly from Aberdeen at a cost of £19,538, and ‘an overnight regional tour from Ayr, near his Scottish home in Birkhall, through Middlesbrough, Redcar, Burnley, Stoke-on-Trent to London, cost £38,016.’ This year, it’s just been reported, they are to receive an 11 per cent rise in the grant-in-aid. Train prices gone up. Bus fares gone through the roof. Bicycles, a fortune to insure.

In all honesty, I’m finding it hard to get irate. Hell, it only amounts to  an increase of £232,000, bringing their total grant up to £2,194,000 a year. Any number that doesn’t have billion after it doesn’t seem such a big deal any more. Actually, I’m getting quite blasé about mere billions since the UK national debt was reported to have reached £1 trillion in January. Even the smaller numbers are bigger than the Cornwalls’ piffling little grant-in-aid. Barclays’ fine for financial misconduct was £290 million, which ‘is tax-deductible, making it equivalent to 13 days’ profit’.

It looks like Bob Diamond will get £17 million as a pay-off for his unapologetic resignation. The boss of Carphone Warehouse, Roger Taylor, is going to get £34 million salary this year despite having to close the Best Buy retail chain he set up. Prince Charles looks pretty deprived in comparison. That is, for someone who’s very rich. I’m beginning to think that there needs to be a new category of financial concern: the under-overpaid – those not paid enough of too much. As for the cost of the royal family, I don’t really mind contributing to their upkeep, providing I’m allowed to make a contribution to other members of the community who are also poorly educated, unemployed, underpaid and require support.


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