Structure and governance

The Crown Estate has all the powers of an outright owner and uses these to actively manage its assets in a commercial and sustainable way to maintain and enhance their value and the financial return they deliver. The Crown Estate aims to be known as a professional operator in the market, a good landlord, a responsible employer and a reliable and respected counterparty in its decisions and its dealings.

Status

The Crown Estate is constituted as a statutory corporation under the Crown Estate Act 1961. It is a body established in perpetuity under the Act as a trust estate. Independent of government and the monarch, The Crown Estate's public function is to: Invest in and manage certain property assets belonging to the monarch; and remit its revenue surplus each year to the Exchequer.

It was in 1760 that the Sovereign first surrendered the surplus revenue (but not the ownership) of what is now The Crown Estate in England and Wales to Parliament, in exchange for income from the Government under the Civil List. Crown lands in Scotland were included in this arrangement from 1832. The arrangement has been renewed ever since by subsequent monarchs at the start of every reign. The assets of The Crown Estate are therefore not the property of the Government, nor are they the Sovereign's private estate. They are part of the hereditary possessions of the Sovereign "in right of the Crown".

Accountability

The Crown Estate observes the Nolan principles of public life, that is, it is committed to honesty, fairness, integrity, openness and transparency. Although it is not an instrument of government policy, it is a public body. As such, The Crown Estate follows the standards in Managing Public Money.

The Treasury is The Crown Estate's sponsor department. The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury is its sponsoring minister who answers for its affairs in parliament when the need arises. The Crown Estate's usual working level contacts are the Treasury Officer of Accounts team.

The Crown Estate's Accounting Officer is its Chief Executive. The Chief Executive is bound by the requirements of chapter 3 of Managing Public Money, with personal responsibility for leading the organisation in an ethical manner, seeking good value for money and securing the quality and integrity of its business. Should a conflict arise between a decision of the board and the Chief Executive's personal view of their duties as Accounting Officer, they should seek guidance from the Treasury Permanent Secretary, from whom, in extremis, they may seek a direction. A direction in this instance would be given under section 3 of Managing Public Money as distinct from a direction given under the Crown Estate Act.

Crown Estate Act 1961 (PDF, 0.14 MB)

The Treasury and the Scotland Office may exercise a statutory power of direction over The Crown Estate's business, acting with or without each other as circumstances demand. A direction may be given only within The Crown Estate's statutory duties. If a direction is under consideration, the Treasury (or the Scotland Office as the case may be) will discuss the matter with The Crown Estate to see whether a jointly agreed course can instead be reached informally. Such discussions may result in written understandings about how The Crown Estate will conduct its business.

In the nature of its business The Crown Estate also has dealings with a number of other Whitehall departments, as if it were an independent commercial organisation. However as a public body it always seeks to work with the grain of prevailing government policy. In a number of instances, framework documents are agreed with the departments or public bodies with which it has regular dealings in order to introduce clarity to the working relationships.