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Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Can we treat the Prime Minister as a charity?

The Americanisation of UK politics continues with a scheme being mooted to set up a charity to cover the costs of the refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s flat which he shares with his fiancee Carrie Symonds, much along the lines of the one used by the White House to raise money for interior design and restyling the building, which is bankrolled by private donors.

According to the Guardian, lawyers within Downing Street are trying to establish whether the government can legitimately fund the prime minister’s flat through a charitable vehicle using cash from Tory donors.

Apparently, there are concerns over the spiralling costs of the refurbishment of the flat over No 11 overseen by Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds. She obvioulsy has expensive tastes.

The paper says that the plan has been challenged by Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, who thinks that establishing a charity to fund the prime minister’s flat may not be legal:

“I’d be surprised if it was within the law to set up a charity and get tax benefits for the home of a public servant.

“To do so there has to be wider public benefits for a group who are in charitable need. I am really not sure if the prime minister and his fiancee would qualify,” he told the Guardian.

Any such arrangement would also raise questions over possible conflicts of interest, offering a potential backdoor way of providing a financial benefit to Johnson, Graham said.

“It would be an outrage, if it was allowed,” he said.

Others have also questioned the legitimacy of the plan:

Andrew Purkis, a board member of the Charity Commission for four years until 2010, said: “For something to be for the public benefit, you would assume there would have to be some sort of public access to whatever the place is that’s being decorated, or sufficient access for it to be seen as something that is of benefit to the public, rather than some narrow section or a particular family.”

Downing Street insiders said that allowing the public access to the building has been ruled out on security grounds.

Caroline Slocock, Margaret Thatcher’s former private secretary, also questioned if any flat refurbishment would be for the public’s benefit, describing it as a “strange move” to set the fund up as a charity.

“It’s for the Charity Commission to decide if it qualifies but it does seem to be for personal benefit rather than public benefit,” she said.

The commission has a standard “test of charity status” which would decide if it is legitimate an organisation with “exclusively charitable purposes for the public benefit”.

“It’s hard for the general public to see the prime minister as an object of charity,” Slocock said, adding that Johnson and Symonds “have the free use of Chequers, which is a very grand house, so they’re already living quite well”.

Commenting on reports the prime minister has privately been complaining he is cash-strapped, she said: “If this becomes a way of increasing his pay through the back door through benefits, that is a concern.”

Time for a rethink I believe.
Is he buying her 'goochie' handbags and diamond encrusted dog collars?Cash strapped!? Did he want the job to get rich?He should do what others do and get a loan.That would show him as one of the people and not a member of theConservative elite wholord it over us for their own benefit.
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