Boris Johnson 'told aides he could not afford the revamp of his Downing Street flat'

28 April 2021, 06:22

Boris Johnson reportedly said he couldn't afford the bill for the revamp
Boris Johnson reportedly said he couldn't afford the bill for the revamp. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson reportedly told aides he could not afford the revamp of his Downing Street flat as the costs started to spiral.

Scrutiny on the Prime Minister over the refurbishment of his No 11 flat has refused to abate despite Downing Street's efforts to draw a line under the issue.

A No 10 spokeswoman said renovation costs of Mr Johnson's living quarters, beyond those provided for by the £30,000 annual allowance, had been "met by the Prime Minister personally", adding: "Conservative Party funds are not being used for this."

But with Labour calling for answers on how the work was funded, the Daily Mail has alleged Mr Johnson told colleagues the bill was escalating out of control, while his chief of staff Dan Rosenfield felt the refurbishment was a "crazy arrangement" and a "mess".

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The newspaper said when aides asked the Prime Minister how much the upgrades were costing, Mr Johnson replied: "Tens and tens of thousands - I can't afford it."

The Conservative Party leader has faced a flurry of questions regarding how the revamp was paid for following a fallout with former aide Dominic Cummings.

The former de facto chief of staff, who quit his post last year, said Mr Johnson wanted donors to "secretly pay" for the work in an "unethical, foolish, possibly illegal" move.

When pressed by reporters on Tuesday, No 10 declined to deny suggestions that the Prime Minister received a loan from the Conservative Party to cover the initial costs, before repaying the party.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Tory Party co-chair Amanda Milling needed to "come clean" about whether party funds had been used.

"No more cover ups, no more prevarication," said Ms Rayner.

"Tell us who paid for the Prime Minister's flat, and release all correspondence on this matter between the Conservative Party, Downing Street and the Cabinet Office."

Prime ministers are allocated a budget of up to £30,000 per year to renovate their Downing Street residency, but newspaper reports have suggested Mr Johnson has spent up to £200,000 on the changes.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, head of the Civil Service, has been tasked with reviewing the refurbishment of the flat in No 11, while the Electoral Commission is also looking into the affair.

The fresh claims about the flat come as Downing Street looked to sidestep allegations Mr Johnson told aides he would rather let coronavirus "rip" than impose a lockdown last year.

His official spokesman said instead that the Prime Minister's actions were being distorted in words that did not amount to a denial, unlike No 10's strong rejection of the suggestion Mr Johnson said in October he would rather see "bodies pile high" than announce a third lockdown.