Dark Money Investigations: News

Boris Johnson borrowed £52,000 for Downing Street refurb

Prime minister repaid money covered by a Conservative donor after details of the arrangement were leaked

Seth Thévoz close-up
Seth Thévoz
26 August 2021, 2.05pm
Boris Johnson’s Downing Street refurb included included £840-a-roll gold wallpaper
PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Boris Johnson was lent £52,000 for a controversial refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, documents reveal.

The Conservative Party today admitted that the prime minister “personally settled the costs incurred by Lord Brownlow”, a party donor who helped finance the work.

Johnson’s wife, Carrie, once described the flat inherited from Theresa May as a “John Lewis furniture nightmare”.

Reports say the work was overseen by top designer Lulu Lytle, and included £840-a-roll gold wallpaper, which keeps peeling off.

Get our free Daily Email

Get one whole story, direct to your inbox every weekday.

The money repaid by Johnson comes on top of a £28,600 refurb bill footed by taxpayers, which included painting and sanding of his floorboards.

The Conservatives’ latest financial accounts show that after exhausting this budget, Johnson was paid a £52,802 “bridging loan” from party funds in summer 2020.

This amount was later covered by Lord Brownlow, but was not declared to the Electoral Commission. By law, all five-figure donations and loans to political parties need to be reported.

There is speculation that the total cost of the work could be as much as £200,000

Financial accounts now confirm that Johnson repaid the money in March, after details of the arrangement were leaked.

It is still unclear how Johnson raised the £52,802 he repaid, as his entry in the Register of Members’ Interests does not suggest any sudden cash windfall. Reports have suggested that he had been experiencing financial problems.

Questions over how the refurb was funded were first raised in March, and some details were later confirmed by the prime minister’s ethics adviser, Lord Geidt, in May. An openDemocracy report showed how the refurb’s funding had been mired in secrecy and may have breached donation rules.

Related story

There are at least seven different sets of rules that Boris Johnson, his party and his government may have broken in his £200,000 flat makeover

However, the total cost of the work has still not been confirmed, with speculation that it could be as much as £200,000. Lord Geidt’s report appeared to suggest that Lord Brownlow settled an additional invoice “directly with the supplier” last October.

Last month’s Cabinet Office accounts revealed an annual £30,000 budget for refurbs had nearly been exhausted, after £28,647 was spent with Mitie Facilities Management Limited at the request of the prime minister – which included painting and sanding of floorboards.

Lord Brownlow and the Conservative Party have declined openDemocracy’s previous requests for comment on this matter.

Elsewhere, the Conservatives have said: “All reportable donations to the Conservative Party are correctly declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them and comply fully with the law. Gifts and benefits received in a ministerial capacity are, and will continue to be, declared in government transparency returns.”

Ukrainian journalists share their stories of war

Hear Igor Burdyga and Kateryna Semchuk explain what it's like working in a homeland under threat. Plus British author Oliver Bullough and chair Daniel Trilling.

We've got a newsletter for everyone

Whatever you're interested in, there's a free openDemocracy newsletter for you.

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData