Ex-Tory MP says £30,000 taxpayer cash a year isn’t enough to refurbish Boris Johnson’s flat

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3 min read
Victoria Borwick, who was one of Boris Johnson's deputies when he was mayor of London, questioned if £30,000 a year is enough to refurbish his flat. (Sky News/Getty Images)
Victoria Borwick, who was one of Boris Johnson's deputies when he was mayor of London, questioned if £30,000 a year is enough to refurbish his flat. (Sky News/Getty Images)

A former Conservative MP has suggested £30,000 a year of taxpayer cash is not enough to refurbish Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat.

Victoria Borwick, who was one of Johnson’s deputies when he was mayor of London, said questions should be asked about “only” getting £30,000 a year to renovate the flat in 11, Downing Street.

Borwick, who was Kensington MP between 2015 and 2017, told Sky News Breakfast it's "one of the interesting debates we should be having".

The scandal continues to linger around the PM, one week after his former chief adviser Dominic Cummings accused Johnson of wanting donors to “secretly pay” for the renovations in a “possibly illegal” move.

Watch: Nothing to see here, insists Johnson amid flat refurbishment probe

A PM is entitled to £30,000 a year of taxpayer money to fund renovations, but the cost of Johnson’s project is reported to have spiralled well beyond this. Some reports have suggested it cost £200,000.

Borwick said of the row on Friday: “There are a number of inquiries which the [Electoral Commission] and the others are going to run and obviously they are going to have to look at the process of the way all these things are funded.

“If we only give somebody £30,000 a year to refurbish, which for most of us seems a lot of money… but if Boris is PM for a long time that would potentially give him the opportunity of spending £300,000.

“So I think these amounts are quite important when you consider you are decorating a home that receives international visitors, and obviously there’s got to be a better way of funding it.

“I think that’s one of the interesting debates we should be having. He can’t be the first person who’s needed to decorate and not necessarily known the total costs at the outset.”

When asked if she thinks the annual £30,000 taxpayer allowance is not enough, she then appeared to backtrack: “I think it’s an awful lot of money but on the other hand, if you’re going to do a renovation where you’re hoping to be somewhere for a long time, I suppose you’ve got to look back and say: ‘Well you spent this money 10 years ago, it will look a much more reasonable amount.’”

The government is on the record as saying Johnson has covered the cost of the refurbishment, but has refused to say how it was initially funded.

The Electoral Commission announced on Wednesday that it would be formally investigating how the renovation was initially funded.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions session in London, Britain April 21, 2021. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO ALTERATIONS
Boris Johnson facing questions about the flat refurbishment scandal at Prime Minister's Questions on Friday. (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor via Reuters)

The watchdog, which is probing the Tory Party, said there are "reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred".

While the scandal has been widely reported for a week, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins told the same programme on Friday it’s not getting “quite the pick-up” among the public as it is in Westminster.

Backbench MP Dehenna Davison also told ITV’s Peston show on Wednesday that 10 times the number of constituents are contacting her about bees than the flat refurbishment row.

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Atkins’ and Davison’s opinions appear to be backed up by the polls.

A YouGov “Westminster voting intention” survey published on Thursday had Johnson’s Tories at 44%, no change from the previous week, and Labour at 33%, down 1% on the previous week.

Labour MP Jon Cruddas, also appearing on Peston earlier this week, admitted he has not been “awash” with emails about the matter, but insisted it may “detonate” into a major problem for the PM.

Watch: Sir Keir Starmer continues to criticise PM’s flat renovations