Tory chiefs consider handing back £60k to donor amid makeover fallout

No10’s frantic scramble on makeover cash: Tory chiefs are considering handing back £60k to donor amid fallout from plan to re-decorate Downing Street flat

  • Cash returned to Lord Brownlow but he was asked to pay £60k to Cabinet Office
  • The aim is to gloss over money’s origins and publicly declare it came from a trust
  • The refit, ‘inspired’ by upmarket interior designer Lulu Lytle, cost six-figure sum 

Panicking Tory chiefs are considering returning £60,000 to a rich donor to gloss over the way the party secretly funded the makeover of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat, it was claimed last night.

After handing the money back to multi-millionaire Lord Brownlow, they reportedly plan to ask him to pay the same amount directly to the Cabinet Office.

It will then allegedly be declared as a donation not from him but from a new Downing Street trust he has been asked to lead by the Prime Minister.

The aim is to gloss over where the money really came from – and enable Mr Johnson to publicly declare that cash for new décor ordered by fiancée Carrie Symonds has come from a trust, not the Tory party or directly from donors.

Panicking Tory chiefs are considering returning £60,000 to a rich donor to gloss over the way the party secretly funded the makeover of Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds’ Downing Street flat, it was claimed last night

Conservative donors were furious to learn cash intended for political campaigns could have been used to buy new wallpaper for Mr Johnson, 56, and Miss Symonds, 32 

The alleged proposal follows a row over the Daily Mail’s disclosures about the refurbishment of Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds’ 11 Downing Street apartment. 

It is believed the refit, said to have been ‘inspired’ by upmarket interior designer Lulu Lytle, cost a six-figure sum.

The Cabinet Office is thought to have contributed around £30,000 of taxpayers’ money, with Mr Johnson unable to pay all the rest despite his £150,000 salary as Prime Minister. 

Friends say an expensive divorce and maintaining at least six children led him to rely on Conservative HQ funds being used to settle a £60,000 debt.

This newspaper revealed last week how Lord Brownlow paid £60,000 to Tory HQ six months ago seemingly to reimburse it for the same amount it gave to the Cabinet Office last summer for the refurbishment.

It sparked a backlash from Conservative donors furious to learn cash intended for political campaigns could have been used to buy new wallpaper for Mr Johnson, 56, and Miss Symonds, 32.

Their protests were echoed by Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, who questioned the propriety of the arrangement.

Now the Conservative Party is said to be considering reversing the money trail, despite having already paid the bill covertly last summer.

It is believed the refit, said to have been ‘inspired’ by upmarket interior designer Lulu Lytle, cost a six-figure sum

After handing the money back to multi-millionaire Lord Brownlow, pictured, Tory chiefs reportedly plan to ask him to pay the same amount directly to the Cabinet Office

According to No10 sources, it would lead to a three-way financial switchback whereby:

■ The Cabinet Office pays back to Tory HQ the £60,000 it sent them last summer for the new décor;

■ Tory HQ pays back the £60,000 Lord Brownlow gave them six months ago – in the original attempt to reimburse the party’s payment to the Cabinet Office;

■ Lord Brownlow pays £60,000 to the Cabinet Office – and it is declared it as having come from the trust he is in the process of establishing to ‘save Downing Street for the nation’.

A No10 spokesman said Conservative Party funds ‘are not being used’ to pay for the refurbishment of the flat.

All ‘reportable donations’ to the Party were declared to the Electoral Commission in line with the law. 

The spokesman said Mr Johnson had not broken Whitehall’s code of conduct and followed Cabinet Office advice at all times.

Asked if Conservative funds had been used at any stage to fund the makeover, the spokesman declined to comment.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Lord Brownlow, a former vice-chairman of the party, who declined to comment.

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