According to the Daily Mail, which broke the story, there is a risk that the initiative may become a conflict of interest, if it is seen as a way to provide financial benefit to the prime minister. However, an ally of Johnson defended the idea, saying that without remodelling, the prime minister’s residence would become “tatty”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is secretly trying to set up a charity that will cover the costs of the refurbishment of his official residence, which was supervised by his fiancee Carrie Symonds, the Daily Mail reported, citing insiders. They told the newspaper that Johnson had reportedly complained about the cost of the makeover, which the prime minister said was “totally out of control”. According to insiders, Johnson was particularly alarmed by the cost of the “gold wall coverings” chosen by his fiancee.
During a meeting with other officials, the prime minister allegedly said that the cost of the refurbishment was “over a hundred grand”.
The Daily Mail understands that the prime minister has held several meetings at Downing Street, during which he asked whether Conservative Party donors could pay for part of the bill directly or via the Tory Party headquarters. His advisers allegedly said that this may be unethical and came up with another idea – to set up a charitable fund which will be tasked with the makeover of Downing Street for the purpose of preserving it on heritage grounds.
It would be similar to the charity used by the White House, which allows presidents and their families to redesign and redecorate the interior. The charity is funded by private donors.
An anonymous ally of the prime minister, who spoke with the Daily Mail, defended the idea to use charity to cover the costs of Downing Street’s makeover.
“Downing Street is as iconic as Windsor Castle but is in danger of becoming tatty because the Civil Service does everything on the cheap. A new charity with privately raised money to preserve it in great shape for all time is great value for the taxpayer and a great idea”, the ally said.
‘No Way I Can Pay For It’
According to the Daily Mail, Johnson first expressed concern about the cost of the makeover at the beginning of last year. He purportedly said there was “no way” he could pay for it after he was told that the maximum taxpayer contribution was around $41,000. The newspaper writes that work on Number 11 flat, where Johnson lives with his fiancée Carrie Symonds and their baby, went on for more than a year and has been completed in recent months. The No 11 flat is generally chosen by prime ministers with families, because it is bigger than the No 10 flat.
The development may add additional pressure on Boris Johnson, as actions by his fiancee have raised questions before. A week ago, conservative think tank The Bow Group called for an independent inquiry into Carrie Symonds’ “influence” on the government. The plea came in response to media reports that Ms Symonds, who once worked as head of communications for the Conservative Party, is “taking a central role in running the country”.
Downing Street called the media reports “incorrect”.