Boris Johnson’s claim he knew nothing about how the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat was being funded has been contradicted by an investigation.

The Electoral Commission has fined the party £17,800 for improperly declaring donations by Huntswood Associates used for the works at 11 Downing Street, where the PM lives.
In its report, concluding an investigation into the payments, the commission revealed Mr Johnson sent Lord Brownlow, the multimillionaire director of Huntswood, a WhatsApp message in November 2020 requesting additional money from a trust set up to fund the refurb.

But in May this year, Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministers’ interests, was told by the PM that he “knew nothing about such payments until immediately prior to media reports in February 2021”.
Lord Geidt was also told by officials that before February Mr Johnson did not know “either the fact or the method of the costs of refurbishing the apartment having been paid”.

A senior Conservative stated he would be “astounded” if Lord Geidt chose to remain as the PM’s adviser if he concludes the PM was “economic with the truth” in his dealings with him.

The PM’s official spokesman denied Mr Johnson had lied and insisted he has “acted in accordance with the rules at all times” and has “made all necessary declarations”.
He said Mr Johnson’s discussions with Lord Brownlow “were done without him knowing the underlying donor of that donation”.

The spokesman added that Lord Geidt remains in post and Mr Johnson has full confidence in him, but could not say whether Lord Geidt had been shown the WhatsApp exchanges.
The Electoral Commission report says Lord Brownlow paid the firms who carried out the refurb directly, although there is no evidence he told the prime minister he was personally funding the blind trust he chaired.

Mr Johnson’s wife, Carrie Johnson, is understood to have chosen £850-a-roll gold wallpaper by top designer Lulu Lytle, who co-founded exclusive decorating company Soane Britain.

A Cabinet Office report published in July said nearly all of the £30,000 annual allowance for refurbishing the Downing Street flat was spent on painting and sanding floorboards alone. Anything over that amount must be paid for by the PM.
The investigation found decisions relating to the handling and recording of a donation by Huntswood “reflected serious failings in the party’s compliance systems”.
The party’s fine is nearly the maximum allowed amount, which is £20,000.

Lord Brownlow, who rubs shoulders with royalty, has donated close to £3m over the past six years – both personally and through his business, records show.

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, welcomed the fine and said the report added to a litany of “sleaze” that is “corroding the office of prime minister”.
“It is one rule for them, and one rule for the rest of us, and Boris Johnson is at the heart of it,” she said.

Ms Rayner called for a fresh investigation from Lord Geidt and for Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone to investigate Mr Johnson.

The commission found the party failed to report the full value of a donation of £67,801.72 from Huntswood in October 2020, with £52,801.72 connected to the costs of the refurbishment.
It also found the reference in the party’s financial records to the payment of £52,801.72 that was made by the party for the refurbishment “was not accurate”.

The fine for failing to accurately report the full value of the donation is £16,250 and for contravening the requirement to keep proper accounting records the party has been fined £1,550.

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