Electoral Commission to investigate Prime Minister’s flat refurb costs
The Electoral Commission will formally investigate the funding of the refurbishment work at the Prime Minister’s home.
It has been reported that the cost of renovating the flat above No 11 Downing Street has gone over £200,000, despite only £30,000 being allocated for this purpose.
While not against the rules to receive donations, politicians must declare them in public to ensure any gifts have not influenced political decisions.
Boris Johnson has previously said that declarations on payments for the flat refurbishment would be made “in due course”.
But the Electoral Commission has now said there were “reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred” following initial inquiries.
Questions were raised over the costs after former advisor Dominic Cummings alleged the Prime Minister had planned to “have donors secretly pay for the renovation”.
A spokesperson for the Commission said: “We have been in contact with the Conservative Party since late March and have conducted an assessment of the information they have provided to us.
“We are now satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence of offences may have occurred. We will therefore continue this work as a formal investigation to establish whether this is the case.
“The investigation will determine whether any transactions relating to the works at 11 Downing Street fall within the regime regulated by the Commission and whether such funding was reported as required.
“We will provide an update once the investigation is complete. We will not be commenting further until that point.”
Johnson was pressed on the payments at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday afternoon.
Labour leader Keir Starmer queried who paid the initial invoice for the refurbishment and raised reports Conservative peer Lord Brownlow had been asked to donate £58,000 for the purpose.
He said: “Either the taxpayer paid the initial invoice, or it was the Conservative Party, or it was a private donor, or it was the Prime Minister? … I ask the Prime Minister again, who paid the initial invoice for the redecoration of the Prime Minister’s flat?”
Johnson said he had “paid for Downing Street refurbishment personally”.
He added: “I have conformed in full with the code of conduct and ministerial code, and officials have been advising me throughout this whole thing.”
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused the Prime Minister of dodging the question. He said: “These questions are simply not going to go away. So, when exactly was money funnelled through Tory HQ into his personal bank account? When did he pay back this money? Was it an interest free loan? And who is the donor or donors who originally funded it?”
The Prime Minister said Blackford was “talking complete nonsense”.