Queen faces funding squeeze in austerity Britain

Queen Elizabeth became the latest Briton to face a funding squeeze on Thursday when the government...

Queen Elizabeth II smiles at the Stratford Theatre as watches Shakespeare's "The Taming Of The Shrew" in Ontario, Canada. Picture: AFP

Queen Elizabeth became the latest Briton to face a funding squeeze on Thursday when the government proposed changes to how it pays for royal trips and engagements.

The Conservative-led government, which is imposing cost cuts and tax rises on more humble Britons, plans to finance the royal family by providing a 15 percent slice of profits from a property portfolio belonging to the monarchy.

"The current estimate is that the 15 percent formula means that by 2014-15, the last year of this Parliament, the Monarch will receive around 35 million pounds ($56 million)," Finance Minister George Osborne told parliament.

"In cash terms that is broadly in line with what they spent in recent years. In real terms it is an around 9 percent cut over the Parliament," he added, taking inflation into account.

Under a settlement with King George III in 1760, profits from the monarchy's Crown Estate properties go to the Treasury while the monarch received a fixed annual payment.

Osborne said his proposal meant that the amount of money going to the queen would now be linked to the performance of the economy. The new "Sovereign Grant" will replace three different payments -- the one from the Treasury, and additional support from the departments of transport and culture.

Royal spending will also face the same level of parliamentary scrutiny as other government departments.

" new Sovereign Grant ... balances the public interest that our Queen is properly funded to carry out her official duties and the completely legitimate interest of the taxpayer in proper accountability and value for money," Osborne said.

The government has made its priority wiping out a budget deficit that peaked at more than 10 percent of national output. Many government departments will have to cut spending by a fifth by 2015.

Queen Elizabeth, who is 85, remains popular with most Britons and will next year celebrate her Diamond Jubilee -- 60 years on the throne.

Global interest in the royal family has been rekindled by the elegant wedding in April of Prince William, second-in-line to the throne, to Catherine Middleton. The couple have just begun their first royal tour, a trip to Canada and the United States.

However, times are tougher for ordinary Britons.

Hundreds of thousands of teachers and civil servants went on strike on Thursday over plans to make them pay more for their pensions and retire later.

Figures this week showed British households had faced the biggest fall in disposable incomes since 1977.