British Budget a Real Royal Deal?

At a time when skyrocketing oil prices, inflation and ever-increasing food prices grasp international headlines, the British royal family finds itself in the position of defending its big budget.

While the Windsors may be to the manor born, it's the British taxpayers who keep the royals afloat, and critics complain the fairy tale literally costs a fortune.

Last year, the price tag totaled 40 million pounds, the equivalent of $80 million, according to Buckingham Palace accountants. They released figures Friday and said the cost averages out to 66 pence per subject or $1.30. They see the large price tag as a royal bargain for taxpayers.

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"That's quite good value for money. It's not that bad. It could be worse," said British subject Jo Stevensen.

But a prominent anti-monarchist group said many of the palace's true costs are hidden. The Republic group complained that the queen and her husband spent more than 22,000 pounds ($44,000) of public money to take a helicopter to the Kentucky Derby during a prolonged visit to the United States, according to the Associated Press.

Travel is one of the biggest expenditures for the royals and it has increased 10 percent this year. Palace officials said public spending on the monarchy increased from 38 million pounds to 40 million pounds for the year ending March 31, when compared to the previous year.

But accountants blamed the increase on rising maintenance and travel costs, not a free-spending lifestyle. They pointed out that the real costs of the monarchy had dropped more than 3 percent in the last seven years because of cost-cutting measures.

The queen managed to cut her electric bill by 11 percent, and her gas bill dropped by 26 percent by simply implementing a lights out policy at royal palaces.

Apparently, the British monarchs can't afford the cost of maintaining their plush digs. Some roofing, rewiring and repair work hasn't been done since before the queen took the throne.

"I can't really imagine the queen putting on gloves and a hair net and getting down to some decorating," Stevensen said.

A large portion of the Windsors' budget goes to transportation, even though the Prince of Wales flew commercial on his last trip to the United States.

But some British subjects aren't so sympathetic to the monarchy and offered some solutions to the transportation troubles.

"Bike it," said Seema Mulk Ansari.

"Just go sit on a bus for 30 minutes," said Anthony Muller Muzza.

"Become normal people, like the rest of us," Nouva Monika said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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