politics

Boris Johnson 'setting up charity' to fund lavish refurb of Downing Street flat


Boris Johnson is trying to set up a charity to help fund a luxurious revamp of his grace-and-favour flat, it was claimed today.

The Prime Minister faces questions over works overseen by his fiancee Carrie Symonds in the plush, four-bed living space above No11.

The 32-year-old has removed Theresa May ’s “John Lewis furniture nightmare” and paintings by British artist John Nash hang alongside works by the PM himself, according to an article in Tatler.

The Cabinet Office will be forced to publish any taxpayer spending on the project in its annual accounts this summer.

But today No10 refused to deny reports that the Prime Minister, 56, wants to fund the some of refurb through donations – after being told he could only claim around £30,000 from the state.

The Daily Mail reported Mr Johnson had privately complained the cost was “totally out of control” and amounted to “tens and tens of thousands”, which he would struggle to afford after an expensive divorce from ex-wife Marina Wheeler.

According to the Mail, the PM has asked Tory peer Lord Brownlow to set up a charity that could pay for upkeep of Downing Street.



Communications director Ms Symonds is said to have embarked on a plush refurbishment
Communications director Ms Symonds is said to have embarked on a plush refurbishment

Such a charity could mirror the White House Endowment Trust, which dished out $2million in 2017-18 and supports public rooms and art in the US President’s residence. US Presidents and their spouses also get a $100,000 refurbishment fund when they move into the White House.

The Mail claimed a fund would maintain not just the flat, but also other parts of Downing Street and therefore have a heritage purpose.

But the move will raise questions about whether Tory donors or allies could indirectly funnel money to Mr Johnson’s lifestyle through a charity.

The Mail reported that Ms Symonds’ revamp includes “gold wall coverings”. It is said to have been inspired by interior designer Lulu Lytle, whose fabrics that cost upwards of £100 per metre.



Bizarre reports even targeted her dog, Dilyn, accusing the pet of humiliating former aide Dominic Cummings by mounting his leg
Bizarre reports even targeted her dog, Dilyn, accusing the pet of humiliating former aide Dominic Cummings by mounting his leg

Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds, the Tories’ former PR chief who now runs communications for the Aspinall Foundation animal charity, moved into their grace-and-favour flat in July 2019.

The No11 residence is traditionally used by PMs as it is bigger and more luxurious than the two-bed flat above No10.

When they arrived in 2019 a No10 spokeswoman promised: “There will not be any additional cost to the taxpayer of her living there.”

But several reports have emerged since of a costly refurbishment by Ms Symonds, even if it is not yet clear who will foot the bill.

It is a decade since David and Samantha Cameron had a £30,000 new kitchen fitted in the No11 flat.

Despite his current £157,372 salary Boris Johnson took a major pay cut to become Prime Minister.



The 32-year-old has removed Theresa May’s “John Lewis furniture nightmare” and paintings by British artist John Nash hang alongside works by the PM himself, according to an article in Tatler
The 32-year-old has removed Theresa May’s “John Lewis furniture nightmare” and paintings by British artist John Nash hang alongside works by the PM himself, according to an article in Tatler

He had to give up his £275,000-a-year column in the Daily Telegraph, whose fee he once described as “chicken feed”.

And despite the sale of his former marital home in Islington, marketed for almost £4million, he reached a divorce settlement with ex-wife Marina Wheeler, the details of which have not been disclosed.

The story has emerged amid a briefing war between Ms Symonds and rivals in No10 who claim she has too much influence over the PM – claims furiously denied by her allies.

Bizarre reports even targeted her dog, Dilyn, accusing the pet of humiliating former aide Dominic Cummings by mounting his leg.

Friends of Ms Symonds denied she had been extravagant, telling the Mail: “The makeover is appropriate for a building of such huge importance.

“Carrie has exquisite taste. It is classic, stunning, stylish and chic. She should be congratulated not criticised.”



Samantha Cameron and Michelle Obama in the revamped No11 flat in 2011
Samantha Cameron and Michelle Obama in the revamped No11 flat in 2011

A No 10 spokesman said: “The Downing Street complex is a working building, as well as containing two ministerial residences.

“As has been the case under successive administrations, refurbishments and maintenance are made periodically.

“Matters concerning works on the Downing Street estate, including the residences, are covered in the Cabinet Office annual report and accounts.”

Ms Symonds’ representative and Lord Brownlow have been contacted for comment.





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