British Royals Cash in on Hard-up Families*
By Nick Sommerlad
Councils are shelling out the cash to the Royal Family for the rent of hard-up tenants who rely on the payments just to keep a roof over their heads. Hard-up families struggling to cope with crippling rises in living costs are already angry that private landlords rake in thousands of pounds from housing benefits.
But many will be even more furious to learn Prince Charles and the Queen are also making money from hard-up tenants who rely on the payments just to keep a roof over their heads.
The pair receives tens of thousands of pounds a year in housing benefits that are paid by local authorities to landlords.
Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall Estate, which has an array of properties across the South West, raked in at least £111,000 from a string of councils providing cash to households.
The Crown Estate, which gives the Queen 15% of its revenue, received at least £38,539 in housing benefit payments from just one town hall last year.
But the true figure of such payments received by the Duchy is likely to be higher as several councils said they were only able to provide amounts handed directly to landlords and not where the money was given first to the tenant.
The estate, which is worth £847million and exempt from tax, paid Charles £19million last year while the Queen is worth £320million.
Our revelations come a day after we revealed Britain’s richest MP, Tory Richard Benyon, earned thousands of pounds last year in housing benefits from his tenants. That’s despite him blasting the “something for nothing” welfare state.
GMB union general secretary Paul Kenny said tonight:
“Things have come to a pretty pass when even the royals are acting as middle men and receiving benefits for their tenants.
“Why can they not just hand the houses to a housing association?”
Campaigners Defend Council Housing joined the growing call for a cap on the amount of housing benefit private landlords are allowed.
Spokeswoman Eileen Short said: “Prince Charles was brought up in the biggest council house in Britain, Buckingham Palace.
“We should be regulating the amount of rent we pay to landlords like him and if the Duchy of Cornwall paid its fair share of taxes we could use the money to build new high quality council housing for the benefit of the nation.
“The housing benefit bill has increased hugely and more than £9billion will be paid this year to private landlords. Taxpayers’ money is being used to line the pockets of wealthy landlords and property speculators.”
Labour MP Teresa Pearce said wealthy landlords now “see the welfare state as a market and its purpose is to put public money in private hands”.
Praising our report on Mr Benyon, she added: “We can now see the truth. This is not housing benefit, it is landlords’ benefit.” Her Labour colleague Sheila Gilmore said of our probe: “You have shown what’s happening.
“In 1980, for every £20 we spent on housing people, £16 went on building homes and £4 went on helping people pay rent. Now £19 goes on helping people pay rent and just £1 on building.
“We have gone from subsidising councils to build homes to subsidising private landlords to grow their property empires.”
The Crown Estate owns the prestigious Regent Street in London’s West End, Windsor Great Park, large areas of farmland and regional shopping centres, including the Westgate shopping centre in Oxford and the Coliseum retail park in Cheshire.
GMB researchers found it was paid housing benefit for a string of tenants living in West Somerset last year.
The Crown Estate was tonight unable to confirm exactly how much it earned in housing benefit.
But a spokesman said:
“Our properties are let to a range of tenants including residents who may receive housing benefit. As with any landlord, there are some cases where tenants receive housing benefit and the rent is paid directly by the local authority from the tenant’s benefit to the landlord.
“All of The Crown Estate’s profits are returned to the Treasury each year for the benefit of the nation’s public finances.”
Profits from the estate rose 5% last year to £253million. Under a new deal hammered out by Chancellor George Osborne, the Queen gets 15% of the revenue. As head of the Duchy of Cornwall estate, Charles is the nation’s third biggest landowner.
Its payments from housing benefits last year included £14,301 for three tenants in Cornwall, £25,104 for six in south Somerset and £4,684.82 for one in Swale, Devon.
Herefordshire county council paid £11,386 direct to the Duchy last year but would not reveal how many tenants this was for. West Dorset district council paid £52,257 in housing benefit for 12 tenants in Poundbury, Prince Charles’ model town in Dorset. The properties were rented through the Guinness Trust.
But a spokesperson for the Duchy of Cornwall said:
“We have disposed of those properties.”
The homes were rented through the Guinness Trust. But a Duchy spokesman said:
“We have disposed of those properties.”
The estate also received £32,026 in housing benefit for six tenants in Bath and North East Somerset.
The Duchy does not pay any corporation tax on its profits or capital gains tax when it sells land and property. Instead, under a special deal Charles “voluntarily” pays income tax on part of his £19million earnings from the estate.
He coughs up a lower overall tax rate than cleaners and other badly paid staff.
In the Commons, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith faced calls for a cap on housing benefit payments to private landlords. But dismissing the notion, he said:
“I suspect you would end up with fewer landlords actually making properties available.”
Our revelations on Mr Benyon and other rich landlords raking in council cash were shared more than 20,000 times on social media.
The scandal in figures
£8.6bn – Total value of the Crown Estate. It owns Regent Street in West End of London, left, large areas of farmland, huge shopping centres and other property. The Queen gets 15% of revenue.
£163,000 – Amount paid in housing benefit to the Duchy of Cornwall by string of councils in the South West of England, including Scilly Isles (below). The Duchy gave £19million to Prince Charles last year.
£52,257 – Amount paid by West Dorset district council for housing benefit for 12 tenants in Poundbury, Prince Charles’ model town. The homes were rented through the Guinness Trust.
Wealthy who are in the money
Among the toffs and tycoons making a packet from housing benefit are:
- Duke of Westminster. The Grosvenor Estate Belgravia, part of his Grosvenor Group, got £242,762 from Westminster Council. The Duke has a personal fortune estimated at £7.8billion
- Earl of Strathmore. Queen’s cousin and owner of Glamis Castle, got £11,500 from Angus Council through his firm Strathmore Estates Holding Ltd
- Viscount Cowdray. He got £32,914 in housing benefit from Chichester Council last year while his Cowdray Estate got another £54,509. Viscount Cowdray is worth £400million