Online petition calling for Queen to pay for $653 million repair of Buckingham Palace garners 132,000 signatures

A file photograph showing people stand outside of Buckingham Palace in London on July 31, 2013.
A file photograph showing people stand outside of Buckingham Palace in London on July 31, 2013. PHOTO: EPA

LONDON (AFP) - An online petition calling for the British monarchy to pay for £369 million (S$653.44 million) in repairs to Buckingham Palace has gathered momentum and by Tuesday (Nov 22) had garnered over 132,000 signatures.

Last week, royal officials outlined a plan for Queen Elizabeth II's official home to undergo "essential works" to replace electrical wiring, water pipes and boilers in the biggest overhaul since the 1950s.

To fund the £369 million repairs, the government is asking Parliament to approve an increase in the sovereign grant - the annual allowance provided by the government to support the Queen in her official duties.

Many members of the public are not so keen.

"There is a national housing crisis, the NHS (National Health Service) is in crisis, austerity is forcing cuts in many front line services," Mr Mark Johnson, who launched the online petition, wrote.

"Now the Royals expect us to dig deeper to refurbish Buckingham Palace. The Crown's wealth is inestimable. This is, in a word, outrageous," Mr Johnson said.

The queen's wealth is estimated to stand at £340 million, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2015, making her the 302nd richest person in Britain.

Many of the comments left by those who have signed the petition echoed Mr Johnson's sentiment.

"It's obscene that we should be expected to pay for this during such time of austerity when it could be paid for by simply selling some of the BILLIONS of pounds worth of art and antiquities held by the crown," wrote Chris B.

Another signatory, named Claire M., said: "The Royal Family have sponged off the British taxpayer for long enough."

Labour, the main opposition party has called on the royals to help, but has steered clear of asking the monarchy to foot the entire bill.

Labour's chief finance spokesman John McDonnell, a republican, said on BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "It's a public building, it's a public monument, it's a heritage building so we have to invest in it to preserve it."

"If the Queen and the Royal Family want to consider a contribution, I certainly wouldn't send the cheque back," he said.

In 1992, public opinion turned against the royal family amid fears taxpayers would be called upon to foot the bill after Windsor Castle, a royal residence outside London, was hit by a devastating fire.

The queen then agreed to pay 70 per cent of the £36.5 million costs by opening Buckingham Palace to the public for the first time to generate extra income.