THE Earl of Wessex has been criticised for using a private chartered plane to travel to royal events at an estimated cost of thousands of pounds to the taxpayer.

Prince Edward was pictured on Tuesday arriving at Birmingham Airport on the plane for an engagement in nearby Tamworth before flying to Poole for another event - part of a three-day series of royal engagements.

The Earl's full travel itinerary for Tuesday has not been disclosed but private plane charter firms can charge from £3,000 an hour for the size of jet used by the royal. The cost of a first class train ticket would have been around £250, it is reported.

Graham Smith from the organisation Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, said: "It's an abuse of public money, he could have easily got the train or car to make the trip."

A Buckingham Place spokeswoman said: "The Earl of Wessex is undertaking a three day programme of events, including a national service of commemoration, and engagements in support of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.

"As ever, security, effective use of time, and the need minimise disruption to others is taken into account when decisions are taken about transport."

In Tamworth Prince Edward joined a national service of commemoration at St Editha's Church for the 1,100th anniversary of the death of Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercians.

He then flew to Dorset, where in Poole he visited the headquarters of Sunseeker International in his role as trustee of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, before later attending a dinner at Brownsea Castle.

Mr Smith added: "Mentioning security is just a poor excuse Government ministers don't flit about the country in private jets they use trains and cars, so it's quite possible for him to do that.

"This is just another illustration of the fact every aspect of public money has been squeezed or cut to the one exception of the royal family whose funding seems to go up."