The Conservative Party has been fined £17,800 over the refurbishment of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street apartment.
An Electoral Commission investigation has concluded that laws on donation reporting ‘were not followed’ during the widely discussed decorating job, with investigators uncovering ‘serious failings in the party’s compliance systems’.
It was determined that the party failed to fully report a £67,801.72 donation from Huntswood Associates Limited in October 2020, a donation that included a sum of £52,801.72 linked to the refurbishment costs of the PM’s residence.
The full value of this donation was not reported in the party’s Q4 2020 donation report, despite it being a requirement. A reference in financial records to the payment of £52,801.72 made by the party for the refurbishment was also found to be inaccurate.
As per the Electoral Commission:
On 19 October 2020, Huntswood Associates Limited transferred £67,801.72 to the Conservative Party. According to the evidence, Lord Brownlow, director of Huntswood Associates Limited, indicated that £15,000 of that was for an event.
He specifically identified the remaining £52,801.72 as a donation to cover an earlier payment of that value made by the party to the Cabinet Office.
The Cabinet Office had paid three invoices over summer 2020, totalling £52,801.72, for the refurbishment of the private residence at 11 Downing Street.
Those payments were made on the basis of an agreement that the sum would be repaid by the party, which it was on 6 August 2020. The party anticipated being repaid by a proposed trust, which was under consideration but had not at that time been created.
Louise Edwards, Director of Regulation at the Electoral Commission, said of the findings:
The party’s decisions and actions reflected serious failings in its compliance systems. As a large and well-resourced political party that employs compliance and finance experts, and that has substantial sums of money going through its accounts, the Conservative Party should have sufficiently robust systems in place to meet its legal reporting requirements.
The Commission has now imposed a sanction of £16,250 for the offence of ‘failing to accurately report the full value of the donation from Huntswood Associates’. A further sanction of £1,550 has been imposed for ‘contravening the requirement to keep proper accounting records’.
Earlier this year, Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson became embroiled in controversy over the refurbishment of their Downing Street flat, with Mrs Johnson having allegedly been desperate to revamp former PM Theresa May’s ‘John Lewis nightmare’.
The PM is allowed an annual public grant of £30,000 for his living quarters. However, some have speculated that the final bill for the Johnsons’ refurbishments added up to as much as £200,000.
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The Electoral Commission