London Fire Brigade was left with a £1 million bill from the Queen’s funeral last year, NationalWorld can reveal.
Anti-monarchy campaign group Republic said it was “shocking” that firefighters had been left out of pocket following a decade of cuts, adding that the Royal Family should foot the bill for its public events rather than the emergency services.
Financial reports published by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) show the state funeral and associated events cost the brigade an estimated £1 million, including around £330,000 on “subsistence, training and premises”. It also includes costs incurred through bank holiday pay and overtime for staff, and general planning and support that it provided throughout the mourning period.
The same financial reports show LFB was facing a budget shortfall of £3.8 million for the 2022/23 financial year as of last December.
LFB had published information on its website following the Queen’s death, about the extensive role it would play in her funeral preparations. This included:
- Auditing and inspecting existing and new buildings to minimise risk of fire, including the media village erected at Buckingham Palace, temporary viewing platforms along procession routes, pop-up refreshments businesses, transport hubs, and accommodation for police and military personnel
- Looking after people in the lying-in-state queue, with firefighters and appliances stationed round the clock at 10 points along the route
- Fire boats patrolling the Thames alongside the queue
- Strategic planning so that incidents across London could be responded to within six minutes despite disruption from the funeral events
- Inspecting floral tributes in the Royal Parks
Hundreds of staff were involved, the brigade said, including firefighters, inspectors, engineers, and IT, control room and communications staff.
Despite initially telling us it had received no additional funding to help with its response – meaning London taxpayers would have been left to foot the bill – LFB has since said that the Home Office recently promised funding of just under £700,000 towards its costs, bringing the net cost down to £300,000.
It comes as the nation gears up for the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday 6 May – a “pointless piece of theatre we could all do without” according to Republic chief executive officer Graham Smith, who questioned whether the LFB would face a similar bill from this event. LFB told NationalWorld it was “proud” of the part it had played keeping Londoners and visitors safe during last year’s historic events, and looked forward to supporting the coronation.
There have been conflicting reports about the likely scale of the coronation – the new monarch was initially reported to be advocating for a slimmed back celebration due to the cost of living crisis, although more recently the Telegraph has reported Charles has rejected a “cut-price” event in favour of “glorious pomp and pageantry”.
LFB told NationalWorld that Queen Elizabeth II’s death on 8 September and subsequent 10-day period of national mourning had been a “high risk” time for London. This included a four-and-a-half-day lying-in-state period at the Houses of Parliament, which ended on 19 September, when her coffin was transported to Westminster Abbey for a funeral service, and then onto Windsor for burial.
‘Why is the royal household not paying?’
NationalWorld submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to LFB, asking what it had spent money on during the funeral. Besides general operational planning and response, the brigade said it had incurred costs from providing rapid or high threat response teams, including mass casualty response, specialist entry and recovery teams, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response teams.
It also stationed event liaison officers at the queue to see the Queen lying in state, as well as at Green Park, Hyde Park and Guildhall, which hosted the City of London’s book of condolence. The Royal Household was also provided with event liaison officers.
“Our public services have seen huge cuts over the past decade, yet now the LFB is expected to fork out a million pounds for the Queen’s funeral,” said Mr Smith of Republic.
“Why is the royal household not paying? Time and again the royals expect everything to be paid for by the hard-pressed public. At the time of the Queen’s death Charles avoided an inheritance tax valued at hundreds of millions of pounds – why wasn’t some of that used to cover the cost of the funeral?
“It’s time the royals paid for their own public events, so the public can rest assured that our emergency services have the resources and funding to do their job.”
Buckingham Palace was approached for comment. It did not respond.
LFB had also faced an additional £344,000 cost for Bank Holiday overtime as a result of the Platinum Jubilee in summer 2022, according to its 2022/23 budget. The London Fire Brigade is funded through the Greater London Authority, by London taxpayers and central government grants.
A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “When the Queen’s funeral took place, the eyes of the world were upon London. As the fire and rescue service looking after the nation’s capital city, we took pride in ensuring that Londoners, and its visitors, were kept safe.
“We have recently received confirmation that the Home Office will provide funding against our costs. With this support the brigade’s spending comes to 0.065% of the total budget for 2022/23.
“The Queen’s funeral was an historic moment for London. We’re proud the brigade played its part in protecting the public and our communities. We look forward to supporting the King’s Coronation in May of this year and wish for a safe event.”
NationalWorld asked the Home Office why it had not covered the entire £1 million bill. It told us it had reimbursed the additional costs incurred in relation to the extra duties and responsibilities the brigade undertook, but had not covered costs incurred due to bank holiday wages paid to firefighters and staff, as these costs were not directly related to the Queen’s funeral.