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It was just three months ago that Buckingham Palace confirmed it was planning to appoint a diversity chief to review policies across all royal households. But despite lower-than-average employment diversity statistics shared in a new financial report, the palace has now shelved plans for the role, though it hasn't ruled out the idea entirely.
The news was confirmed alongside the release of the 2020–21 Sovereign Grant Report, which, for the first time, openly disclosed the proportion of ethnic minority employees working at the palace—8.5 percent. The target, a source says, is 10 percent by the end of next year (the country’s last census in 2011 saw 14 percent of the population in England and Wales registered as non-white, although in London this number was just more than 35 percent).
Clarence House, the household of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, came in at a slightly lower 8 percent, with officials admitting that there is “more work to do” on the issue of diversity. Kensington Palace, the home of Prince William and Duchess Kate, declined to share a number, although it is believed to be far lower than the others, according to a source.
“Her Majesty and the royal family have promoted and embraced the diversity of our nation and that of the Commonwealth, and we recognize that our own workforce needs to reflect the communities we serve,” a palace source tells BAZAAR.com. “We recognize we are not where we would like to be and that despite all our efforts to target recruitment, train managers, and build an inclusive workplace, the results have not been what we would like.”
After Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan shared their own experiences with racism in the royal family, palace sources were quick to brief media outlets about plans within the institution to hire a “diversity tsar.” News of the role was welcomed by those who felt that the royal establishment needed a tighter focus on diversity in the workplace, especially in light of recent reports that Buckingham Palace had banned ethnic minorities from office roles up until at least the late 1960s. So the decision to put the appointment on ice has left some scratching their heads.
“The decision to no longer hire a diversity chief at Buckingham Palace speaks for itself and evidently pays lip service to a commitment to diversity they have zero intention of radically implementing,” political commentator and author of This Is Why I Resist Shola Mos-Shogbamimu tells BAZAAR. “If in 2021, the monarchy does not see it must evolve on the issues of race, racism, and race inclusion, it must be brought subject to the same laws and consequences the rest of us are subject to. … The royal household cannot be expected to regulate itself on racism and race inclusion. No public institution should. The monarchy work for us, and I want them held to account when they do wrong.”
However, despite no current plans to hire a diversity chief, a palace source explains that the institution is striving to create a more diverse workforce and hasn’t ruled out the role entirely. “We are committed to improving this, hence we have started to publish diversity statistics to ensure we are open and transparent about our efforts to improve,” the source says. “We fully expect to be held accountable regarding our progress.”
The latest report for the Sovereign Grant—the pot of money given to the queen by the British government that is made up of the income surplus from the Crown Estate and tax-payer contributions—showed an overall increase in royal spending for the last financial year, largely due to the ongoing 10-year refurbishment of Buckingham Palace. The total amount spent, which covers official royal duties and maintenance of occupied royal residences, rose £3.5 million ($4.8 million) from the previous year to £85.9 million ($120 million), which equates to £1.29 ($1.80) per person in the U.K.
More than £51.5 million ($71.7 million) of the total sum funded the queen’s official duties and engagements, as well as paying for staff, of which there are 499 full-time employees working for Buckingham Palace (including a private secretary who receives a salary of £220,000, or $306,400, per year). Further notable spending in the report included 47 royal helicopter trips totaling £669,149 ($934,510), plus £500,000 ($696,000) on cleaning and laundry, £500,000 ($696,000) on replacing the asphalt roof of the North Wing at Buckingham Palace, and more than £700,000 ($974,382) on rail travel.
With a lack of tourists visiting the royal residences during the past financial year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the queen was approximately $13.9 million out of pocket compared to previous years. A repayment of £2.4 million ($3.34 million) from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for money spent renovating their Frogmore Cottage home in Windsor stopped costs from spiraling higher.
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