Boris's chief of staff warned against donors funding No10 renovation
Boris Johnson’s new chief of staff warned it was ‘crazy’ to ask wealthy donors to fund lavish Downing Street renovation
- Boris Johnson’s chief of staff Dan Rosenfield warned flat renovation plans ‘crazy’
- Sources said he reacted angrily on discovering that wealthy Tory donors would fund the lavish renovation of the Prime Minister’s flat
- Tory donor Lord Brownlow later made a £58,000 donation to cover the sum
Boris Johnson’s new chief of staff warned it was ‘crazy’ to ask wealthy Tory donors to fund a lavish renovation of the Prime Minister’s flat.
Sources told the Mail that Dan Rosenfield reacted angrily when he started his job in January and discovered the details of plans drawn up by officials to help the Prime Minister pay for the six-figure overhaul of the Downing Street flat he shares with fiancee Carrie Symonds.
A well-placed source said: ‘He couldn’t believe anyone had allowed such a crazy arrangement to go ahead in the first place – or that so much time had been spent on trying and failing to sort out the mess.’
Last night it emerged that former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling turned down an invitation to join a new trust overseeing the maintenance of No10. Lord Darling is said to have feared it could be used by wealthy donors as a way of trying to gain influence over the PM.
Parliament was told last week that Mr Johnson has now paid the £58,000 excess cost of the refurbishment carried out by trendy designer Lulu Lytle. It is thought the cash-strapped PM had to take out a personal loan to cover the cost, which ran far beyond the £30,000 annual maintenance allowance available to prime ministers.
Sources told the Mail that Dan Rosenfield (pictured) reacted angrily when he started his job in January and discovered plans drawn up to help the Prime Minister fund his flat renovation
Sources have told the Mail the bill was initially settled last summer by the Cabinet Office before being repaid by the Conservative Party in July. This newspaper has revealed that Tory donor Lord Brownlow later made a £58,000 donation to cover the sum.
Sources told the Mail yesterday that the PM also discussed asking either billionaire Tory donor Lord Bamford or multi-millionaire environment minister Zac Goldsmith to foot the bill.
The revelations suggest that No10 officials may have been diverted from work on the pandemic to try to devise a way that would allow someone else to pay for the makeover of the PM’s flat. No10 declined to comment on the claim or on the role played by Mr Rosenfield.
Labour raised the temperature last night by accusing the PM of ‘lying’ about who settled the original bill. Sir Keir Starmer is expected to challenge Mr Johnson over the issue in the Commons today, along with the explosive claim that he said he would rather see ‘bodies pile high in their thousands’ than order a third lockdown.
Boris Johnson gestures as he visits Llandudno, Wales, Britain, April 26, 2021
Mr Johnson has denied the claim, which has now been reported by the Mail, the BBC and ITV from multiple sources.
But No10 did not deny reports yesterday that the PM told officials last September he would rather ‘let Covid rip’ than order another lockdown, saying only it was a ‘distortion’ of his views.
Amid signs of Tory disquiet, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross yesterday refused three times to say he believed the PM is ‘a man of integrity and honour’.
No10 yesterday tried to distract attention away from the audit trail leading back to the Conservative Party by issuing a statement saying: ‘Any costs of wider refurbishment this year beyond those provided for by the annual allowance have been met by the Prime Minister personally. Conservative Party funds are not being used for this.’ However, sources acknowledged the statement did not cover the question of whether the Tory Party bailed out the PM last year.
Last night it emerged that Mr Johnson could be fined or even suspended from Parliament if he failed properly to declare donations that helped to fund the renovations. Parliamentary sources said the PM is likely to face ‘enhanced sanctions’ if he is found to have breached rules on declaring political donations.
Parliament was told last week that Mr Johnson has now paid the £58,000 excess cost of the refurbishment carried out by trendy designer Lulu Lytle
The Electoral Commission yesterday confirmed it is still examining whether failure to disclose the arrangements may have breached electoral law.
Mr Johnson ducked questions on the issue this week, saying: ‘If there’s anything to be said about that, any declaration to be made, that will of course be made in due course.’
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey defended the refurbishment and said it was ‘no surprise’ that he wanted to make changes as he has a young family.
‘The Prime Minister has probably spent more time in the No10 flat than prime ministers normally would,’ she said. ‘Also, the birth of his young son, having his family there, so I think it’s no surprise if people with a different sort of family atmosphere moving into a private residence in No10 want to make changes.’
Asked if she would spend £5,900 on an armchair as reported, Miss Coffey said: ‘The point is that the Prime Minister has paid for those. I think it’s perfectly acceptable for people to spend their money how they wish.’
Hannah White, deputy director of the Institute for Government, said any financial assistance with the flat would have to be declared to Parliament, as well as on the much-delayed register of ministerial interests.
Dr White noted that Mr Johnson has a ‘bit of a record of being late’ in declaring interests, adding: ‘It’s not something he has a history of giving great priority to.’ Records show he has been reprimanded for making ten previous late declarations of financial interests.
In 2019, the Commons standards committee warned he would face a ‘more serious sanction’ than a simple apology if he repeated the transgression.
Downing Street hopes to bypass Parliament by declaring the financial help in the next edition of the register of ministerial interests.
But the PM is still trying to persuade someone to take the role of adviser on ministerial standards following the resignation of Sir Alex Allan in the wake of the Priti Patel bullying row last November.
The lead candidate is said to be ‘wobbling’ over concerns about the freedom and authority they will have to pursue allegations.
And ministers acknowledged that Labour is certain to demand an investigation if the donations are not also reported.
David Howarth, a former commissioner at the Electoral Commission, said it was clear that any loans and donations of more than £1,500 made to help pay for the flat should have been declared to the watchdog via Parliament.
He said failure to declare the funding within a month of it being accepted would be ‘a breach of the rule’.
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