For many tourists, a trip to London is not complete without a photo in front of Buckingham Palace. And from the outside, the roughly 300-year-old building looks fit for the world's longest serving monarch.
But behind the facade, palace officials say it is falling apart. The boilers are more than 30 years old. The estimated 160 kilometers of electric cables were installed in the 1960s and the pipes are made of lead and cast iron. All of it needs replacing, the bill around half a billion dollars.
The British government has approved the use of public money. But many lawmakers question why taxpayers should pay. "The estimates suggest that the total net value of the monarchy is about 84 billion U.S. Dollars. The personal wealth of the Queen is about half a billion or 650 million U.S. dollars. So the monarchy can easily afford to be the payer than the populace in the state that have. I think that it should be the monarchy, not the people."
And at a time of austerity, Monaghan says the bill is unjustifiable. "Yards away from where we are at this particular point and time, but our people, they are rough sleeping. They've got no homes. "But the government argues the upkeep of Buckingham Palace is vital to Britain itself. Visiting heads of state are usually given a full ceremonial welcome here by the queen. Earlier this month, she hosted Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos.
Buckingham Palace also draws hundreds of thousands of tourists. Many visitors told VOA they were surprised to hear of the problems at the palace. "Given austerity measures going throughout the country, I would say that putting that on taxpayers and the people is tough." "I feel like it should definitely come from both sides. As far as the government (is) paying it, I feel like in return it gets a lot. Tourists are going to come and it is something that tourists are always going to want to come and see."
The work will be done in stages, so the Queen will not have to move out. And with 775 rooms, there should be somewhere for her to escape the noise of renovation. Officials say if the planned work goes ahead, the palace will not need another renovation until 2067. By that time Prince William, second in line to the throne, would be 85 years old.