Queen's private income rockets

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The Queen's income from her private Duchy of Lancaster estate has shot up to £16 million – up a whacking 18% on last year.

According to the newly-published accounts, indeed, net operating income was the highest ever recorded and 'spread across all the portfolios'.

Her property portfolio extends to 45,500 acres across England and Wales, worth £472 million. It includes office, retail and industrial properties as well as 13 historic buildings, including 10 castles.

Most of the property is in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Lincolnshire, and has been gradually accumulated over the last 700 years. There are also a number of retail and commercial premises in London, and even golf courses and quarries.

The reason for the big rise is the booming commercial property market - particularly for office space in London and industrial units in the rest of the country. Cannily, the Duchy used the period when the market was depressed, between 2011 and 2013, to refurbish many of these. And now the market's picked up, it's able to capitalise on higher prices.

The Queen uses the Duchy cash to support relatives including Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, the Countess of Wessex and Princess Anne. She doesn't have to pay corporation tax, although she has been paying an undisclosed amount of tax voluntarily since 1993.

And the Duchy isn't the Queen's only source of income: last year, she received a Sovereign Grant of £37.9 million from the taxpayer - and it's gone up to £40.1 million this year.

Next spring, prime minister David Cameron, chancellor George Osborne and Sir Alan Reid, the Keeper of the Privy Purse, will review the controversial funding formula under which the Sovereign Grant is pegged at 15% of the profits of the Crown Estate, with the rest going to the Treasury.

Combined with a clause stipulating that the amount would never fall year-on-year, this has led to a massive rise over the last three years.

Republicans claim that, particularly at a time when most incomes are stagnant, the Royal Family should have its budget cut.

"How can the government continue to spend a third of a billion pounds on sustaining the monarchy when it is drastically cutting public spending?" asks Graham Smith, CEO of campaign group Republic.

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Queen's private income rockets

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