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Saturday, July 17, 2021

Financial contortions and the overhaul of the Prime Minister's flat

The Independent reports on the extraordinary financial contortions involved in funding the Prime Minister's refurbishment of the Number 10 flat, quoting an official report which claims the lavish makeover included spending £28,000 of taxpayers’ cash mainly on “painting and sanding of floorboards”:

It states: “The Cabinet Office has a £30,000 budget each year for the upkeep of the dwellings within No 11 Downing Street.

“During 2020-21, Cabinet Office spent £28,647 with Mitie Facilities Management Ltd at the request of the prime minister, which included painting and sanding of floorboards.”

The accounts add: “Additional invoices for the refurbishment work undertaken on the No 11 Downing Street residence were received and paid for by the Cabinet Office and subsequently recharged to the Conservative Party in July 2020.

“In March 2021, the supplier refunded the Cabinet Office, and the Cabinet Office refunded the Conservative Party, with all final costs of wider refurbishment met by the prime minister personally.”

A No 10 spokesperson said: “Other than works funded through the annual allowance, the costs of the wider refurbishment of the flat have been met by the prime minister personally.”

In March, leaked emails revealed how plans were hatched to set up a charitable trust to pay for the upkeep of the flat and Downing Street, but were then abandoned.

Mr Johnson was reported to have protested that the costs – to rid the flat of what his new wife Carrie Symonds had apparently dubbed a “John Lewis furniture nightmare” –had run out of control.

His former aide, Dominic Cummings, claims he told the prime minister that his plan to have “donors secretly pay for the renovation” were “unethical, foolish [and] possibly illegal”.

it is litte wonder that the Electoral Commission has launched a formal investigation, saying “an offence or offences may have occurred”, while a former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life has called the affair “a scandal”, saying “the Cabinet Office really got the prime minister out of a hole”.
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