UK Election Watchdog Probes Funding of Johnson's Downing St Flat Amid Calls for Finance Transparency
London [UK], March 20: Like some of his predecessors, Prime Minister Boris Johnson lives in the flat above No 11 Downing Street, with his fiancee Carrie Symonds and their son Wilfred. As extensive refurbishment plans got underway earlier, opposition parties questioned the cost of the work and urged transparency regarding contributing donors.
The UK's Electoral Commission has been in touch with the Conservative Party over a reported payment that contributed towards the recent refurbishment of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's four-bedroom flat above 11 Downing Street, writes The Guardian.
The official elections watchdog has sought to establish whether any sums relating to the revamp failed to be declared under the law on party political donations.
"We are in contact with the party to establish whether any sums relating to the renovation works fall within the regime regulated by the commission. If so, they would need to be reported according to the rules specified in law, and would then be published by the commission as part of our commitment to the transparency of political finance," a commission spokeswoman was cited as saying.
The Tory party allayed concerns, insisting that in full compliance with the law, all reportable donations had been correctly declared.
"All reportable donations to the Conservative party are correctly declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them and comply fully with the law. Gifts and benefits received in a ministerial capacity are, and will continue to be, declared in government transparency returns," a party spokesman stated.
Boris Johnson's press secretary, Allegra Stratton, told reporters earlier this month that Conservative party funds were "not being used to pay for any refurbishment of the Downing Street estate".
11 Downing Street Revamp
The developments follow previous reports by UK media claiming that Tory party coffers were allegedly dipped into to help cover the reported £200,000 ($277,400) cost of refurbishing the official residence of Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer - the flat over 11 Downing Street - where Prime Minister Boris Johnson resides with his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, and their son Wilfred.
Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife began the tradition of moving into the flat originally occupied by the UK's Chancellor of The Exchequer in 1997.
At the time the residence underwent its first renovation, with Cherie Blair reportedly spending £127,000 on modernising it with custom-glass bookshelves and elaborate wallpaper.
In 2010 David Cameron subsequently moved in, spending the full annual £30,000 of taxpayers' money available for the upkeep of the Prime Minister's accommodation.
Boris Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds, after moving into the residence reportedly enlisted the help of eco designer Lulu Lytle - co-founder of Soane Britain, an upmarket London-based interior design firm.
As Johnson and his fiancee considered options for covering any excess expenditure over the annual grant, the Daily Mail reported in March that there had been talk of establishing a charity for the purpose.
The suggested scheme was modelled on one used by the White House for elaborate decor.
Johnson had also reportedly bemoaned the cost of the refurbishment by Symonds as 'totally out of control', wrote the Daily Mail.
Cited sources claimed Johnson revealed to one minister he was alarmed by the cost of 'gold wall coverings' chosen by his fiancee.
Downing Street earlier vowed that details of any work carried out on the property would be published later this year amid concerns cited by opposition parties that conflicts of interest could arise if Conservative donors contributed towards the revamp.