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Even more tourists wanted at the palace

BUCKINGHAM Palace should open its doors to tourists more often and the money raised spent on maintaining crumbling royal buildings and monuments, a parliamentary spending watchdog said yesterday.

The Royal Household has built up a 32-million-pound (US$52 million) maintenance backlog for the Occupied Royal Palaces Estate, which also includes Windsor Castle, Prince Charles's residence Clarence House and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

But it receives less than half that amount a year in government funding from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said.

The repair list includes the burial site of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Frogmore House, near Windsor Castle, where 3 million pounds of work is urgently needed.

Their mausoleum, completed in 1871, has been awaiting restoration for 14 years and is on English Heritage's at risk register.

Queen Elizabeth's London home Buckingham Palace opens to paying visitors for around 60 days in the summer. Admissions raised 7.2 million pounds in the last financial year, indicating the potential for additional income.

The committee called for extra admissions and dismissed concerns that opening days were constrained by the amount of time the palace is used for state and royal occasions.

"Other buildings such as the White House and Houses of Parliament manage to open for most of the year, despite similar obligations and security concerns," the committee said.

At present, only a fraction of admissions cash - 27 million pounds last year - is shared with the Royal Household.

Instead, it goes to a charity that looks after the artworks held by the queen.


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